«Collecting and preserving plant specimens, a manual April 2013 Collection and preserving plant specimens, a manual Page 2 of 22 Prepared by Tony Bean ...»
Collecting and preserving
plant specimens, a manual
Collection and preserving plant specimens, a manual Page 2 of 22
Science Delivery Division
Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation
Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha
Mt Coot-tha Road
Toowong QLD 4066
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Citation Queensland Herbarium, (2013) Collection and preserving plant specimens, a manual. Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation.
Queensland Herbarium April 2013 Collection and preserving plant specimens, a manual Page 3 of 22 Table of contents Why Collect 5 Voucher specimens 5 Before you collect 5 Permits 5 Safety 5 Protective equipment 5 Safe travel procedures
Figure 5. Consider how the pressed specimen will appear.
Its form at this time largely determines its ultimate appearance. Unnecessary twiggy shoots and excess material may be cut away. 10
Herbarium specimens are used for a variety of purposes. They:
allow and support accurate identification of plants, algae, lichens and fungi • provide a permanent record for a species occurring at a particular time and place • form the basis of reliable distribution, habit and habitat information • document the introduction and spread of invasive weeds over time • are the reference point for the application of the scientific names • provide the basic biological material for taxonomists, ecologists and other researchers • serve as vouchers for seed collections, toxicological cases, biochemical analyses and • biodiscovery.
Voucher specimens are specimens collected of taxa that are the subject of research or investigation, generally resulting in a publication in a scientific journal or report. Their importance cannot be over-emphasized. If lodged in a recognised herbarium, they will endure in the collection for many years, and their identity can be checked and verified at any future time from the voucher reference in the publication. This means that research and survey data will remain useful many years after publication, even though names and classifications change. The advent of genetic techniques in plant taxonomy has increased the need for well-annotated, correctly identified specimens to be stored as vouchers for published sequences, reducing the need to resample at a future time.
Before you collect Permits Before going on to private land you must request permission from the owner to access and traverse their land.
Collecting specimens in National Parks and State forests is illegal unless you have a permit.
Permits to collect for scientific purposes can be obtained from http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/licencespermits/plants-animals/ Safety Protective equipment It is advisable to take personal protective equipment such as sunscreen, a hat, long-sleeved shirt and long trousers, sturdy shoes, a first-aid kit, water and food on any collecting trip. Make sure you have additional suitable equipment as required for the particular job. For example, gloves will be needed for handling prickly or sappy material, and a hard hat for collecting material from trees (see list of equipment on next page).
Safe travel procedures Always let someone know where you are, and when you expect to return. For prolonged journeys, details of your intended route and destination, call-in procedure and expected time of return should
be left with someone who can raise help if necessary. If possible travel with someone and discuss safety issues before you leave. Make sure that the vehicle is suitable for the job, and functioning properly prior to leaving. Check all safety equipment such as satellite phones and recovery gear prior to leaving.
Commonly used equipment For general collecting you may require day press that is light enough to carry around. This should include only a few cardboard • corrugates, and a few dozen sheets of newspaper.
a field press with many more corrugates and more newspaper. This can be left at the campsite, • accommodation, or in the vehicle.
spare corrugates and newspaper and some sheets of foam for bulky items • secateurs to cut and trim specimens • GPS for recording an accurate latitude and longitude. Alternatively, mark the position on a • topographic map.
a field notebook and pencil. This can be a pocket-sized notebook or a book of pre-printed • specimen labels may be used.
large and small plastic bags, to hold specimens temporarily • small brown paper bags for collecting fruits, seeds, bryophytes and lichens • a hand lens • gloves, for handling prickly plant material or plants with corrosive sap • tie-on tags, often called jewellers tags • felt tipped pens and pencils for numbering collection and writing notes.
In addition you may require
a trowel for digging out herbaceous plants with underground structures. For example, • Haemodorum species have bulbs 15-20 cm below the surface and Murdannia species have tubers that will be left behind if you pull plants from above.
plastic bottles with preserving liquid, to preserve fleshy plants or delicate flowers. This usually • consists of 70% alcohol. Note: alcohol cannot be sent through the mail.
a camera for photographing the form of the plant, flower colour and its natural habitat.
• Photographs should be linked to a specimen voucher so that the plant names can be kept upto-date in the future.
For collecting specimens from trees you will need a throwing rope • a hard hat • binoculars to help you locate the optimum material.
Selecting the plant material Select vigorous, typical specimens. Avoid insect-damaged plants. Choose individuals that show the variation in leaf, flower and fruit size. It may be important to show morphological variation, involving the collection of individuals of different sizes or ages. Collect at least two sets of specimens (duplicates) and number each set. Keep one set for your reference, and send the duplicate set to the Herbarium for identification or as a voucher if required. The Queensland Herbarium does not return specimens.
A good specimen includes stems, leaves, flowers and fruits. Basal parts of grasses, sedges, ferns and bulbous plants are essential for identification. Underground parts e.g. tubers, rhizomes are important for some plant groups.
The plant material should be fertile i.e. in flower or fruit (both if possible), as these characteristics are often vital for identification. Some time should be spent looking at a number of individuals, and choosing one with a number of flowers or more mature fruits.
Size of the specimen A specimen should ideally be 25-40 cm long and up to 26 cm wide, allowing it to fit on a standard herbarium mounting sheet which measures 42 x 27 cm. Conveniently, this is also the approximate size of newspapers.
Plant parts that are too large for a single sheet may be cut into sections pressed on a series of sheets, for example a palm or cycad frond.
Long and narrow specimens such as grasses and sedges can be folded once, twice or even three times at the time of pressing. In this way a plant of up to 1.6 metres high may be pressed onto a single sheet.
For very small plants, a number of individuals may be placed on each sheet.
Features of the plant When collecting from trees or large shrubs, distinctive or notable features should be recorded, for example branching habit, height and width of the plant and details of the bark.
You may need to collect more than one specimen to show the range of variation that is present, for example mature and immature parts, juvenile and adult leaves, coppice shoots.
If the plant is dioecious, with male and female flowers on different plants, collect from each plant and label the specimens A & B.
Handling plants during collection For best results, specimens should be pressed within a few minutes of being removed from the plant. Many species wilt and fade soon after collection. A day press is convenient for short trips taken from the vehicle.
If specimens cannot be pressed at the point of collection, for example if it is raining or on steep terrain, they may be stored in large plastic bags. The bags should be kept moist, and the specimens not jammed in too tightly. Make sure that each bag is correctly labelled, using one bag per collection site. However, storing specimens in plastic bags is not recommended because it is easy for specimens to become damaged or mixed and they are more likely to go mouldy.
Step-by-step procedure for plant collecting and pressing Figure 1. Find a specimen that is representative of the existing population. Collect both flowers and fruit if available.
Figure 2. Use secateurs for a clean cut of the stem.
Collect two specimens if you wish to retain one sample for yourself.
Figure 3. Every specimen and its duplicates should be tagged.
Jeweller's tags are used by most botanists. Write your name or initials and a unique collection number on one side, and the date and site number on the other side. Use a pencil or waterproof pen.
Figure 4. Attach tags securely to each specimen.
Figure 5. Consider how the pressed specimen will appear.
Its form at this time largely determines its ultimate appearance. Unnecessary twiggy shoots and excess material may be cut away.
Figure 6. Flatten out the specimen by closing the day-press and securely attaching the straps (in this case, Velcro straps).
Figure 7. Record the latitude and longitude of the site using a GPS unit.
Alternatively, mark your position on a map, and record the grid reference.
Figure 8. Record site/habitat data (locality, soil/geology, vegetation type, associated species) and individual specimen data (habit, flower colour, abundance) in a notebook.
All notes should be recorded at the collecting site and not at a later time.
Data to be recorded in the field Many botanists use a small notebook to record information about the specimens they collect, and the sites at which they collect them.
The following information should be recorded before you leave the collection site, otherwise the chance of giving erroneous information is greatly increased.
1. A preliminary descriptive locality. This can be modified later after consulting maps, but the preliminary locality reminds you about which site it is.
2. GPS location. This can be recorded as latitude and longitude or AMG. Remember to also record the datum that you are using e.g. GDA94.
3. Habitat (site) data, including landform, slope, dominant plant species, structural formation, for example “open forest”, “open woodland”, “shrubland” or regional ecosystem. Soil type and geology should be added if known. Record whether the collection site was a disturbed site such as a roadside, burnt area or grazed paddock.
4. Information about the individual species collected at the site, particularly height, form, presence of rhizomes, presence and colour of sap in cut stems, colour of new growth and flower colour.
Flower colour often changes on drying. Also record the relative abundance of the species, particularly for rare or threatened species or weeds.
Drying specimens It is essential to dry the specimens fairly quickly, to prevent the onset of fungal attack. Fungus affected specimens are of limited value to a Herbarium.
If your field trip involves car travel, specimens placed in presses on the roof rack will dry within a few days if the humidity is low.
In warm environments, the damp papers and corrugates must be replaced daily. In drier inland areas, every 2 or 3 days will suffice. After changing the papers and corrugates, the specimens should be again tightly packed in the press, otherwise they will not remain flat.
At the first paper change, adjust any undesirable features of the specimen, for example folded leaves, leaves all showing the same face, flowers obscured by leaves. Such adjustments will not be possible once the specimen has fully dried. Look for any evidence of insect attack, especially caterpillars in flowers, and remove any insects found.
Drying in the field Placing the presses in the sun during the day appears to have little drying effect except for the topmost and bottommost specimens. However, the sun is invaluable for drying the damp papers and corrugates once they have been removed from the press.