Make a herbarium specimen

Activity

Pressed plants or herbarium specimens are used by botanists for research purposes. They can also be very decorative.

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors & Indoors
  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Science, Art&DT, Geography, History, Social Studies

Learning objectives

  • Learn about plant classification and nomenclature
  • Learn about and identify the plants growing in their local environment

Preparation

Study your local environment or school garden for plants which may be native or cultivated. Discuss what this means in terms of history & geography.
Use plant keys to identify and sort the plants that have been picked.
Use plant keys or books to help decide the habitat in which the plants are found, i.e Marsh marigold, Field clover.

Equipment needed

  • A plant press (see separate resource)
  • Access to plants and flowers, these can be wild from your local area or from your school garden
  • A plant key or flower book
  • Newspaper, blotting paper and cardboard, thick, white card or good quality stiff paper for displaying the plants. (A4 for herbarium specimens)
  • PVA glue & paddles, items to decorate

Step by step

  1. Choose the individual plant to be pressed. Pick the whole plant if it is small enough to fit on an A4 sheet of paper so you have examples of all the plant, flowers, stem, leaves and root (if you wish).
  2. Make a label for the plant, stating where and when you found it. Also write the common or Latin name clearly and place it with the plant.
  3. Make a sandwich of cardboard, folded blotting paper and newspaper. Lay the plant specimens flat, separate them out and place them between each folder of blotting paper. 
  4. Add several sheets of newspaper or a single piece of corrugated card between each folder of blotting paper.  Continue to make sandwiches of paper, material and plants.
  5. Place the final piece of cardboard or wood on top and secure with wing nuts, string or straps and store in a warm place for 2-4 weeks.
  6. Use the PVA glue to mount your plants with their labels or use them to make and decorate objects.

Hints & tips

  • Ensure all plant material used to make the plant press is completely clean and dry before use 
  • Store your plant press in a warm place like an airing cupboard or near a radiator for the best pressed plants
  • Use this activity as part of Flower Power class growing topic

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