Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pressed Plants

Hey everyone, this is Madeline. Today I was at the homestead taking pictures for another blog I was planning to write when we stumbled across a "Herbarium and Plant Descriptions" book in one of the book cases. That was rather serendipitous seeing as I wanted to do a little research on the herbs in our herb garden out by the summer kitchen. I was totally expecting to find a plant encyclopedia between the covers, but instead I found brief directions on how to collect, dry, press, and identify plants followed by a thick stack of completed forms for recording plant observations. I couldn't read the writing on most of the forms - they were filled out in a light, scribbled cursive - but I found something completely unexpected while looking for something I could read... a perfectly preserved pressed plant! The colors on the flowers were even still visible, and the roots were still there, too. As I kept flipping through, I found more plants, all equally as well preserved. It wasn't what I was looking for, but I must say, decades-old, well-preserved biological material was certainly an exciting surprise! The geneticist in me sincerely wishes I could take a little bit of a leaf or something and look at the genes. Look for what, I don't know, but the thought that something so fragile as living tissue (and thus DNA!) has been well preserved between common sheets of paper for probably almost a century now is incredibly thrilling.

The cover of the book we found today.

Directions on how to press and identify plants.

Surprise! The flowers are beautifully preserved! I can't figure out how to get the picture rotated online (it's properly oriented on my computer) but at least you can get the idea.