HINTS ON THE COLLECTION OF PLANT SPECIMENS FOR IDENTIFICATION
Extracted from Tree Life 109
For plants to be reliably identified, adequate material is necessary. Poorly preserved scraps are not good enough. Specimens should preferably be collected when the plant is in flower or fruit and only in exceptional circumstances should sterile material be submitted. Adequate material specimens consists of twigs with leaves and flowers and/or fruits and all showing variation of size, to fit an area slightly smaller than the size of 30 x 45cm. Where possible several (up to 3) such specimens of each plant should be made for retention by the National Herbarium if desired.
For the preparation of good specimens :
(i) the plants should be pressed before they begin to wilt
(ii) newspaper can be used to dry the specimens; the paper should, ideally, be changed everyday until the plants are dry; this is important otherwise plants are likely to become mouldy and/or loose their leaves; if a press is used it can be put in the sun or near artificial heat to hasten the process. It is quite a good idea to put each specimen in a single sheet of paper with a double sheet or piece of corrugated cardboard between them
(iii) it is important to get the specimens really flat so it is necessary to press the plants under pressure. If no press is available, they could be put under a mattress providing the bed has a solid base, or under a piece of wood or still cardboard with a weight of stones, bricks or books on top. A simple press can be made by nailing slats of wood together so that they criss cross. The outside should be about the size of the Herald folded in half.
Data should be entered in a field notebook and a copy of the information should accompany the specimen. This should include :
(1) Name of collector
(2) Number of specimen. Every collector should have his own series of collecting numbers and each specimen should be numbered using a jeweller’s tag or by putting the number on the newspaper so that the specimen can be related to the data
(3) Date of collection
(4) Locality, district; 1/4 degree square degree grid reference if known, or direction and distance from some well known place, so that the plant can be found again. (Ed. Take the GPS location!)
(5) Habitat/ecology. The sort of place in which the plant was growing, e.g. miombo woodland on sandy soil
(7) Description of the plant which will not be apparent in the pressed specimen, i.e. height, trunk diameter, appearance of bark, presence of thorns, colour of leaves, flowers as a whole and/or sepals, petals, stamens etc.; scent of flowers, leaves etc.
(8) The vernacular name/s and any uses if known.