Monday, March 28, 2022

Squashing Plants for Fun and Science

The first plant I pressed was a violet. I think I wanted to glue it on a card. My “plant press” consisted of a piece of newspaper and Webster’s Dictionary. I laid the flower between a folded sheet of newspaper and put it inside the dictionary. I may have piled on my dad’s geology textbook for good measure.

The thing about plants is that they sometimes leak and, as I’ve discovered, books don’t like damp pages. Eventually I made a heavy-duty plant press with straps to squish it closed. It’s heavy and big, so I made another one that I can fit into my backpack and take with me on walks.

Here’s what you need to make a simple plant press using materials you can find around the house (maybe even in the recycling bin):
  • cardboard (I used the covers of an old steno notebook)
  • paper towels
  • newspaper
  • watercolor paper
  • some printer paper
  • two thick rubber bands or twine
To press a plant, place it between two pieces of paper or newspaper. Take a few minutes to position it so that you can see the petals, leaves, and other plant parts.

Then layer paper towel and heavy watercolor paper, or more newspaper. If you want to press another plant, place it between paper and layer in the newspaper and other sheets.

Put the top cardboard layer on.

Stretch rubber bands around each end, and let it dry. You can stack a heavy book or two on it as well.

After a week, check to see if your plant is completely dry. If not, leave it in the press longer.

Once your plant is dry, use it to make cards or for art projects. Or make an herbarium mount and add it to a plant collection. Here’s what you need:
  • card stock
  • scotch tape
  • labels
  • page protectors
  • 3-ring binder
Before you mount your plant, fill out a label. Tape it to the bottom right corner of a piece of cardstock.

Gently remove the dried plant from your press and arrange it on the cardstock. Use thin strips of tape to hold the plant to the page. You’ll want to tape the stem, leaves, tops of petals.

Slide the cardstock into a page protector, and put it in the binder. 

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