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Vascular Specimen Mounting Guidelines
for the Australian National Herbarium

September 1995, written by Jo Palmer and Faye Davies


Table of Contents

Specimen Mounting at CANB


The following set of guidelines has been drafted to facilitate mounting in the short term. In some stages of specimen mounting there is an alternative step in the guidelines. These alternative steps will be phased out when the CBG and CSIRO databases (IBIS, ANHSIR, GUMNUT and PAPERBARK), are either linked together or are one. At present all new incoming exchange and CSIRO collections are being mounted according to the following guidelines, but all CBG staff collections and those collections that require labels from the IBIS database are being mounted on the smaller CBG sheets and continue to be accessioned through IBIS as CBG collections. The CSIRO databases do not have the capacity to deal with the Living Collections side of the CBG herbarium specimens (i.e. cuttings, plants or seed which may have been collected), so rather than double up on information at present it seems sensible to continue on with the dual system (and also use up current supplies of materials). Differences and differing preferences for certain procedures are highlighted at the relevant points by [**].

The Volunteer Mounting Program facilitates preparation of the majority of incoming specimens in the Australian National Herbarium.

Materials Used

Wherever possible archival materials are used in the mounting of specimens. The mounting sheets, flimsies/specimen folders and folding fragment packets are made of archival acid free paper. The clear plastic bags used for fragments that go in the packets are made of polypropylene. 3M mounting tape used to fasten the specimens to the mounting sheet is a special long lasting tape consisting of a clear polyester film and an acrylic adhesive. The glue used to attach the labels and packets is water based. Specimen labels and determinative slips from the two databases are printed on archival paper.

Important Points

If the specimen is a Cryptogam (i.e. a Moss, Lichen, Hepatic (Liverwort ) or Fungus), put aside and do not mount - alert a supervisor. These specimens are stored differently to the rest of the collection.

Make sure the specimen has a label. If not, put aside and do not mount - alert a supervisor.

Make sure the number on the tag on the specimen matches the label, if not , put aside and do not mount - alert a supervisor.

If ever in doubt about any aspect of mounting please ask a supervisor.

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Assessment and Arrangement of the
Specimen for Mounting

Mounting Sheet

Take a large sheet of mounting card and make sure the natural curve of the sheet is uppermost. This will be assured if the packet of mounting card is opened with the join in the wrapper uppermost.

[*If mounting a CBG specimen use the smaller card*]

CANB Barcode Number Sticker

Take the next consecutive sticker from the sheet of barcode numbers and place it on the top right hand corner of the mounting sheet (Figure 1a).

[*If mounting a CBG specimen, the CBG number and stamp goes in the bottom left hand corner. The stamp should be annotated in permanent black ink with the CBG barcode number that appears on the label; if this is not present leave blank.*]

Labels and Other Written Information

Place the label in the bottom right hand corner, a few mm from the edges of the sheet. Any determinavit/confirmavit slips should go just above the label. If after placement of the specimen the label will not fit then it can be relocated to the bottom or top left hand corners with any det./conf. slips placed just above or below. See Figure 1a as a guide.

Placement of the Specimen

Arrange the specimen on the sheet always keeping in mind the following points:

All parts of the specimen should be within the bounds of the sheet (Figure 1b). There should not be any overhangs. The plant material should not cover the CANB barcode number or the label. If space is limited the specimen may overlap the label slightly or the label can be placed as suggested in Labels and Other Written Information above. If the specimen will not fit, seek assistance, as it may be possible to trim the stem.

Always attempt to mount the specimen so that surfaces and organs needed for study (upper and lower leaf surfaces, buds, flowers and fruit) are visible.

Always try to mount material to represent the natural habit of the plant, i.e. roots mostly at the bottom (Figure 2). If the specimen is small, don't place it right in the middle of the sheet. By mounting material in a variety of positions throughout a pile of specimens (within reason of course), the pile will be fairly stable and level for easier storage. Also, if possible, try to avoid mounting main parts of the specimen in the middle of the bottom of the sheet. As this is where most people pick the sheet up considerable damage can be done to the specimen.

If possible separate clumps of plants (Figure 2) without damaging them and carefully remove any loose soil from the roots or foreign matter. The plants can then be spread out on the sheet and are less bulky.

With tiny specimens just mount a few and put the rest into a packet (see Loose Material).

Sharp ends on plants (e.g. cut stem ends, spines or protruding branchlets), should be turned downwards or trimmed so as not to break through the folder and cause damage to other specimens in the collection. Check with the supervisor if unsure.

If the specimen is big and bulky or heavy, the heavier-grade mounting sheets can be used and/or the specimen may need sewing (see Sewing).

Several Sheets for One Specimen

(For items under this heading it will usually be best to consult a supervisor before proceeding.)

It is preferable to mount only one sheet of material for each specimen, but sometimes there may be too much material to fit on one sheet, or a collector may have specified a multi-sheet layout (Figure 3).

Examine the material and if flowers, fruit, leaves etc., are similar in appearance (i.e. not obviously male plants and female plants or sections of a plant showing different growth stages), then choose the best, most representative pieces to make up one sheet. A photocopy of the label should be put with the remainder of the material in its temporary paper folder. It can be left with the mounted specimen for the supervisor to remove /distribute at a later stage. This extra material is a potential duplicate or replicate.

If the material consists of male and female plants/branches, or a branch each of buds and fruit, or several parts of one plant that won't all fit on one sheet, then multiple sheets will be needed. Mount each sheet as above making sure that each sheet has a CANB barcode number using consecutive numbers.

[CBG second etc. sheets are given the same CBG number as sheet one].

In the bottom right hand corner of each sheet please write in pencil/permanent black ink the following; e.g. if there are three sheets - on the first sheet SHEET 1 of 3; on the second sheet, the collector's name and number then SHEET 2 of 3; and on the third sheet the collector's name and number then SHEET 3 of 3. Please check with the supervisor if uncertain about multiple sheets or making duplicates.

Loose material

This includes any fruit, flowers, seeds, or leaves that have fallen or broken off the main specimen. These should all be kept and placed in an appropriate-sized polypropylene bag. (Material must not be forced to fit or damage will occur). A small square of archival paper with the collector's initials, surname and number (date or herbarium barcode number if other is not available) written on it in pencil/permanent black ink, should always be included in case the bag becomes separated from the sheet.

The polypropylene bag is then folded and placed in an appropriate-sized archival paper fold-up packet (Figure 4) [*for Eucalyptus and Angophora loose material just fold over top of bag and crease (see The Packet)]. Fold flaps in order described in Figure 4, then secure with one or two plastic paper clips depending on the packet size.

The packet can then be placed anywhere around the sides of the sheet as long as it doesn't conceal the specimen, the label, the CANB barcode or the CBG stamp. Wherever possible space should always be left for the computer stamp below the CANB barcode, and det./conf. slips to be placed above the label.

Photographs included with specimens should have the collector's name and number written on them in pencil (2B) on back extreme corner and then be placed in an appropriate-sized polypropylene bag and placed on sheet as for loose material packets. If there isn't enough room on the sheet use an envelope with a flap so that the photo can sit over the top of the specimen and be flipped out to one side when specimen access is needed.

If there is any fruit or woody material accompanying a specimen which is too big, bulky or numerous to successfully mount with the specimen, photocopy the specimen label and place this with the bulky material in an appropriate-sized polypropylene bag within another polypropylene bag sealed with small bulldog clips. This will be stored separately from the specimen. Also, always add a FRUIT SEPARATE slip to the specimen's label OR write this in pencil or permanent black ink on the label, if not already indicated. This indicates that there is more to the mounted specimen than just the mounted material, and, that it is stored separately.

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Mounting the Specimen

Once the specimen, label or labels and packet if present, have been positioned on the sheet, they can all be fastened down.

The Specimen

Most specimens can be fastened using 3M archival mounting tape, but for those with large or bulky stems and fruit or those which are very dense it may be better to attach by sewing. Many specimens have a definite flat side and a side with relief. Always mount specimens with the flat side against the sheet.

Mounting Tape

There are three sizes of archival mounting tape (3, 5, 6) mm wide that can be used. The 5 and 6 mm tapes should be used for stems, with the broader one for the thicker stems. Only use the 3 mm tape for very delicate or fine specimens or fine stems. It is not strong enough to hold the thicker stems, so consequently is not used very often.

[Eucalypt specimens are to be mounted with strips of dry gummed paper tape]

Tape should be applied with the spade shaped forceps. Always remember when taping to tuck the tape in next to the specimen on both sides and press down the tails firmly, making the specimen secure. If this is not done the tape will easily lift with movement of the specimen. See Figure 5.

Tape specimens separately (for some cushion plants and grasses it is easier to leave them in a clump) and mostly only along the stems. Only enough pieces of tape are needed to stop the specimen from moving around as it is possible the specimen may need to be removed at a later stage. Do not stick long pieces of tape from one side of the sheet to the other just to mount several specimens at once, likewise do not try to mount several thick stems with one piece of tape. Try not to attach tape across flowers and fruit. Also, do not use tape where stems are sitting up off the mounting sheet - try to attach where stems are sitting flat. See Figure 6 for taping examples.


Sometimes large stems, large fruit that are still connected to a branch, or large fruit that burst open may not, with handling, stay taped to the mounting board. In these cases heavier-grade mounting board can be used and these difficult parts are sewn to the board for added security. Use heavy duty thread and a large needle, puncture the board either side of the stem, take the thread through the underside of the sheet and back up to the top of the specimen. Tie off using a reef knot (being careful not to overtighten and thus tear the sheet), move the knot a little to the side of the specimen and trim off any excess. In the case of roundish, large fruit use a criss-cross pattern of sewing by making two holes on either side and tying the threads together in the middle. Extremely large, wide leaves can be sewn on either side of the mid-rib, if the mid-rib is firm enough, instead of using tape at the tip of the leaf. See Figure 7.

The Label and Other Written Information

Only put glue down the side of the label corresponding to the side of the sheet it is going on. For example, if the label is to go in the bottom right hand corner only glue along the right hand side of the label. The label is placed first then the determinavit or confirmavit slips are glued above the label in the same way. Remove any exposed glue as this will stick to the folder.

The Packet

Put a circle/blob of glue on the base of the packet (Figure 4) and place firmly on the sheet. Wriggle it around a little to secure in place, then hold it down for a minute so that it will not move.

Do not glue any of the flaps to anything.

[Eucalyptus and Angophora bags can be pinned with a nickel plated pin directly onto the top of the sheet*].

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Annotation of the Flimsy/Specimen Folder

The mounted specimen is stored in an archival white folder to protect it from damage. The following information from the specimen label is written in pencil along the bottom of the front of the folder. This should be written as clearly and neatly as possible (Figure 8).

Left Hand Side

The collector's initials and surname in full should be written followed by the collecting number - see Figure 8. On many old CANB labels only the collectors initials are present. Please see Appendix 1 for a list of these and their corresponding surnames. Having the collector and number on the folder is very useful for sorting purposes.

The abbreviation for a herbarium together with a number e.g. FRI 000, MEL 000, is not the collector's number and should not be used.

If no collector's number is present, write "s.n." (sine numero) after the collector's name (this means "without a number" or "unnumbered" in Latin).

If there is no collector or collector's number, then write "leg. ign. s.n." (legit ignotus sine numero) on the label (this means "collector unknown" and "without a number" (or "unnumbered") in Latin).

If there are several collectors it is quite acceptable to write the first collector's name then the collector's number, if any and then "et al." (et alii) (this means "and others" in Latin.)

Some cultivated specimens have been grown and collected by someone other than the collector of the wild specimen. The person who collected it as a cultivated specimen is the collector.


The place of collection is written here. For Australia they are grouped under the following state abbreviations, W.A., N.T., S.A., Qld, N.S.W., A.C.T., Vic., Tas.

Country names or abbreviations are used for the rest of the world, e.g. JAPAN, NZ, USA, PNG.

If the location outside Australia is not certain, "E.A." for "Extra Australia" is sufficient.

If the specimen was collected from cultivated material, just write "CULT."

Right Hand Side


The family name should be written at the bottom in capital letters, see Figure 8. It can be checked by looking up the particular genus in Vascular Plant Families and Genera by R.K. Brummitt (1992).

Note that the following family names used by Brummitt are no longer used by CANB and should be changed to the new name if found:

      OLD                               NEW
    Compositae  		    	= Asteraceae
    Cruciferae			    = Brassicaceae
    Graminae		         	= Poaceae
    Guttiferae 			    = Clusiaceae
    Leguminosae-Mimosoideae   = Mimosaceae
    Leguminosae-Caesalpinioideae	= Caesalpiniaceae
    Leguminosae-Papilionoideae	= Fabaceae
    Labiatae		        	= Lamiacaeae
    Palmae			        = Arecaceae
    Umbelliferae		    	= Apiaceae
If the family name is confusing or unobtainable, leave it and ask for help.

Genus and Species

Above the family name write the genus name, starting with a capital letter. Following on the same level is the species name which should be in lower case. Any further classification such as subsp. (subspecies), var. (variety) or f. (form) should then be written in lower case below the genus and species.

Sometimes the qualifiers "aff." (having affinities to) and "cf." (compare with) appear before the species name on the label, or the species is new and not yet named ("sp. nov."); they should be transcribed onto the folder as well,

e.g. Gomphrena aff. canescens or Gomphrena sp. nov. If a separate determinavit slip is present, always check the date of the slip against the determination date on the label and use the most recent identification. It will usually be that of the determinavit slip.

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This applies to:- CANB specimens already mounted on smaller white or coloured card. - Mixed collections; two taxa (or species) mounted on the same sheet.

Coloured Card

Those specimens mounted on sheets other than the smaller white ones should be removed as carefully as possible, the labels and any other annotations cut out, then remounted. Do not cut the annotated fragments too small. Remember to give each sheet a CANB barcode number. If removal will result in damaging the specimen (e.g. if the specimen is glued to the sheet,) leave specimen mounted, cut out around the specimen and glue this cut-out to the new sheet.

CSIRO Small White Sheets

Specimens mounted on small white CANB sheets. If the specimen is suitably taped to the sheet and the sheet itself is in good condition, the whole sheet may be attached to a new larger mounting sheet. Simply run a wavy glue line along the top edge of the smaller sheet and press it onto the new sheet. Please remove any exposed glue.

Old mounting sheets, normal adhesive tape, masking tape and cellophane bags all perish over time. Also, old style pins, staples and wire, rust or corrode. If they are used please remove them, remount specimen and repacket loose material onto the larger sheet. If the specimen is glued to the sheet, do not attempt to remove it. You should either cut out around the specimen if the sheet is in bad condition, or glue down the whole sheet.

The "Old Style" CANB Number

Many small sheets will have different CANB sheet number formats in the top right hand corner. This is a valid CANB number and does not need a new CANB barcode as well. To assist with standardisation, please observe the following:

Figure 9. Sheets with purple stamps can remain as they are and the whole sheet can be glued onto the larger sheet. e.g.


Figure 10. Sheets with a Purple stamp with number filled in, e.g.

Herbarium No. 26934
Division of Plant Industry
CSIR Canberra, Australia

If the sheet and taped specimen are in good condition, remount the specimen, stamp the new CANB stamp shown (shown below) in the top right hand corner of the new larger mounting sheet and write the number in permanent black ink after CANB. Remount rest of sheet.

Figure 11. New CANB number stamp:


Figure 12. Sheets with a black ink number stamped in the top right hand corner, e.g:


Transfer number to new CANB stamp box on a new larger sheet and totally remount the specimen.

If several old sheets of the same collection are found with the same herbarium number, one sheet should be left with that number and the remaining sheets should be given new herbarium barcode numbers. Sometimes several old sheets of material may fit onto one large size mounting sheet in which case only one number need be used. Consult your supervisor if unsure.

Mixed Collections

n.b. When confronted with this situation alert a supervisor who will deal with it.

Sometimes, for various reasons, two taxa have been mounted on one sheet. As a mounted sheet should only represent one taxon, the specimens should be separated and made into two separate herbarium sheets (Figure 13).

Copy the label and relevant det. slip for the specimen which is being removed and alter the collector's number from "000" to "000 p.p." for both collections (p.p. (pro parte) is Latin for "in part" or "partly".

Separate the specimens into two parts. If the specimens are taped, the tape can usually be cut and the specimen removed, leaving the mounting sheet intact. If the specimens are glued, or the specimens are many and small, cut the sheet up and glue the portions to new mounting sheets. Provide a new CANB barcode to the relevant sheet. If separate determinavit slips are present, cut out the appropriate slip for the new sheet. Seek guidance when there are packets.

e.g. A mixed collection of two Rhododendron species was found on a sheet labelled -

Smith 000 Rhododendron microphyllum J.J.S.

Add the following labels after the specimens have been separated - see Figure 14.

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Appendix 1.

Common initials on old CSIRO specimen labels.

A.A.L.	   Lawson
A.C.B.	   Beauglehole
A.H.K.P.   Petrie
A.M.	   Melvaine
A.V.G.	   Giblin
C.E.C.	   Carter or Cambell
C.E.L.P.   Lane Poole
C.H.	   Hamilton
C.W.E.M.   Moore
D.J.W.	   Wimbush
E.D.	   D'Amay
E.F.B. 	   Biddescombe
E.R.L.J.   Johnson
F.H.	   Hely
F.H.H.	   Hann
F.R.G.	   Gnauck
G.C.	   Chippendale
G.H.A.	   Allen
G.H.C.	   Clarke
H.B.W.	   Williamson
J.C.	   Calvert
J.G.W.	   Webb
J.G.T.	   Tracey
J.H.H.	   Hemsley
J.H.M.	   Maiden
J.McL.	   McLuckie
J.H.W.	   White-Haney
J.V.W.	   Vickery
K.C.B.	   Barker
K.H.N. 	   Northcott
L.A.S.J.   Johnson
L.J.W.	   Webb
L.P.	   Pedley
L.R.F.	   Fraser
M.F.	   Fuller
M.L.	   Lazarides
N.T.B.	   Burbidge
O.D.E.	   Evans
P.B.	   Bailey
P.K.M.	   Macnicol
R.A.P.	   Perry
R.E.W.	   Winkworth
R.H.C.	   Cambage
R.H.K.	   Key
R.L.C.	   Crocker
R.M.       Millet (M.R.0.M.)
R.R.	   Roe
R.W.J.	   Johnson
S.L.E.	   Everist
S.W.Q.S.   S.W.Q.S.
T.P.B.	   Paltridge
W.A.W.deB. de Beuzeville
W.B.H.	   Hitchcock
W.H.	   Hartley
W.T.J.	   Jones
W.Z.	   Zimmer


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