Collecting Difficult Plants
Prepared by Andrew Lyne, 1996
Some plants are more difficult to make good specimens of than others. If you wish your plants to be positively identified then, as a general rule, always try and collect good flowering and fruiting material. This is not always possible however. Below are some tips on making collections of some more difficult groups.
Specimens will need to include both a fertile frond (one bearing spores), a non-fertile frond and some of the rhizome where present or the basal part of the stipe (stalk).
Where the specimen is from a tree fern, some of the fertile frond and the basal part of the frond stipe (stalk) complete with any scales or hairs will be needed. If necessary, fronds may be cut into c. 30 cm lengths for ease of handling.
Specimens will need to include a cone or at least a number of the sporophylls (scales) that make up a cone. Also include an entire leaf (i.e. the entire "frond", NOT just an individual pinnule (leaflet)) and an idea of how many leaves are present in the crown of the plant. As a leaf may be anything from 50 cm to 3 m in length, they may be cut into c. 30 cm lengths for ease of handling.
Specimens will need to include part of a mature inflorescence and part of the scape. You will need to measure the entire length of the inflorescence (the terminal flowering spike) and the entire length of the scape (the bare, woody stalk).
Make a specimen c. 30 cm long that includes both a section of inflorescence and a section of scape. A flowering specimen is preferred to a fruiting specimen but not essential. Note if a trunk is present or not and if present, measure its length. Also, include a few leaves. For ease of handling, coil up the fresh leaves before drying.
Specimens will need to include flowers (and fruits if available) and a length of stem with leaves. If the plant is small enough, collect the whole plant, roots included and wash off any mud. Make a note of if any rhizomes are present or not and include some if present.
Many aquatic plants will lose their shape once removed from the water. It may be necessary to place the wet plant into a sink or bath full of water at home, spread it out and arrange it as best you can and then gently float it onto a sheet of thick paper or cardboard. Once on the sheet the plant can be dried. Remember however that some aquatics may have a mucilage or glue like substance on their leaves and if pressed and dried between sheets of paper they will stick fast. Try using waxed paper or plastic film over the top of the plant to avoid this. Should it happen to stick, leaving it to soak in warm, soapy water should free it.
Sedges (Grass or rush-like herbs)
Examples include Cyperaceae (sedges), Juncaceae (rushes) and Restionaceae. If the plant is small enough, collect the whole plant, roots included and wash off any mud. Long plants (e.g those longer than c. 30 cm) should be bent into V shapes or even folded into N or M shapes. Specimens will need to include an inflorescence (that part of the plant bearing the flowers) and several leaves collected right from the base of the plant. Should any plant bearing mature fruit be present, then it too would make a good additional collection.
Specimens will need to include a flowering conflorescence (i.e. a flowering head) and a length of branchlet with leaves.
Specimens will need to include mature fruits, seeds and a length of branchlet with leaves.
Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Angophora
Specimens will need to include both mature fruits (including seeds) and flower buds and a length of branchlet with adult leaves. Juvenile or coppice foliage can also prove useful, but please do not send juvenile leaves alone or juvenile leaves where you are not absolutely certain they are from the adult specimen. A description of the bark is also useful. There are a number of different bark types (although they are basically "rough" or "smooth") and the degree to which the trunk is covered varies but some examples might be - bark entirely smooth; or bark rough and persistent for c. one third of the way up the trunk and smooth above; or bark rough and persistent on trunk and larger branches, smooth on smaller branches.
Asteraceae (The Daisy family)
Specimens should ideally include both flowering and fruiting heads - this is not always possible however so flowering heads alone will suffice. For shrubby or tree like specimens include also a length of branchlet with leaves. Note whether any milky latex was present or not when the stem was cut. Where the plant is small enough, e.g. up to c. 30 cm high, collect the whole plant.