A student who takes any interest in the study of plants is certain to make some sort of a collection of dried specimens. He may just as well make a creditable collection while he is about it, and save himself a lot of future trouble when he comes to value his work. At the very outset a student may collect small pieces of flowering shrubs or ferns, and, after pressing till dry, mount them in a drawing book or album, attaching to each specimen the name, date, and place where found. This is a satisfactory procedure for a time, and useful to familiarise one with the scientific names of plants, but as soon as the very juvenile period is passed, a serious collection, now called a herbarium, should be made.
Never gather rubbish. The collection will rapidly grow, and soon all the poor specimens will have to be thrown out to make room for better ones, and so much labour and material will have been lost. Gather specimens with good flowers or fruit, and these when properly dried and mounted will last for all time.
Let your specimen be a liberal size, say twelve inches long. Where the whole plant is smaller than this, mount stem, roots, and all. Where very small, fix many plants on the mount, and if advisable put them in envelopes, and stick the envelopes on the mount. Where the specimen is clumsy trim off leaves and side-shoots till the specimen will lie flat on the paper. Never gather in damp weather or mildew will ruin the flowers. Before your specimens shall have time to wilt proceed to press them. This is done by placing each specimen between folds of absorbent paper or many layers of old newspaper, and keeping them under pressure till quite dry. Unless the plants are of a very dry nature the paper must be frequently changed, and the frequency will depend on the nature of the plant. Any neglect means mildew, and rotting of delicate parts. A very effective press may be made by putting the bundles of paper and specimens on the floor, a flat and broad piece of wood on the top, and on this heavy weights, such as iron, stones, or bricks.
Some succulent plants, as for instance our Rock Lily, will continue to flower and go to seed while in the press. To prevent this, the plant, all but the flowers, may be plunged into boiling water for a second or two. Some heaths will too readily shed their leaves when dry; the same treatment if applied will have a beneficial result.
Succulent plants, such as Orchids, may be satisfactorily dried by placing between absorbent paper, and ironing with a hot iron.
When the specimen is properly dry it may be preserved in folds of paper or in boxes, but the more convenient method is to mount it. This is done by attaching it to a sheet of paper by the use of gum, or by sewing or by strips of lead. The mount may be of any quality from cartridge paper to old newspaper, according to one's disposition to economise. The size should be uniform, say 15 inches long by 9 broad, certainly the sheets should not be much smaller or there will be trouble when large specimens have to be dealt with.
On the mount a label should be attached, giving the name of the plant, where gathered, by whom, and date. Details of structure may be drawn on the paper.
Small insects are rather fond of herbarium specimens, and will destroy our precious objects if not prevented Specimens may be rendered poisonous by. being dipped in a solution of corrosive sublimate or, better, by sprinkling a little naphthaline between the sheets. Ferns require the same treatment as flowering plants, only never keep specimens unless they have the masses of spore sacks on them. Sterile leaves are worthless. Mosses are very con venient plants to collect, for they may be stuffed in a seed envelope, and when wanted readily soak out to their original form. Sterile specimens of mosses are of value, but fruiting ones are better.
Fungi afford a fascinating pursuit, but one cannot go far in it without the use of microscope. Many of them do not change when dry, others will restore fairly well when soaked, others again, such as the Agarics or Toadstools hopelessly degenerate. Such plants can only be recorded by making a correct drawing in proper colours, for colour is of great importance in these Fungi, noting also size, colour and shape of the spores. The specimens when mounted and labelled will be kept in portfolios or cabinets according to the convenience of the collector.