When your plants are dry, it is time to mount them. The idea is to make them as beautiful as possible, arranging them so that all the features show–like a good botanical illustration, not one of the human female’s whiteboard scribbles. Do a test layout, making sure your plant will fit on the paper. Use the good stuff. This acid-free mounting paper will be around long after the human female is but an unpleasant memory. Don’t forget to leave room for the label. My dearest Sigyn has a fine eye for this sort of work.
Once you are satisfied with the arrangement, glue the plants in place. Regular school glue is fine. There are also fancy herbarium glues, but the human female says they taste bad. (I don’t even want to know…) Weigh the plants down so that they dry flat and in good contact with the glue. Large washers are perfect for this.
Most glues dry within twenty-four hours. While Sigyn waits for my magic to dry this plant more quickly, she is looking at a fine old herbal with hand-written text and hand-tinted illustrations. There is a cyclamen…
…and a daisy. Hmm. This is a European herbal and the daisies do not look like the local ones. Ours are not pink.
Wait! Go back! Sigyn, what’s that last illustration?
A Scythian Lamb? A Vegetable Sheep? I must obtain some examples of this wondrous plant-beast which bears live sheep! If I plant them in the front yard, not only will I never have to pull weeds again, they may eat all the human female’s favorite blossoms! Sigyn can pet them and talk to them, and their bleating may keep the human female awake of nights. I like this plan…
Once you have pressed all your plants, close the press and tighten it as much as possible. There’s no such thing as too flat!
You may need to have someone help you by sitting or standing on your press. Sigyn weighs just about the right amount.
I take it back. There is such a thing as too flat.
Now put the press someplace dry and drafty. Keep the plants in the press until they are dry. Small things take a few days. Thick, juicy specimens take longer.
Don’t forget to be a Good Scientist and record all the data– Collector, collection number, date, precise location, description of the plant, description of the habitat, any necessary sketches, etc. Photographs are useful too.
Sigyn’s field log is red because a) she likes red, and b) it is easy to spot if she drops it or leaves it behind. We could outfit an expedition to darkest Peru with the pens, papers, diggers, rubber boots, hats, and other assorted field equipment the human female has lost. But she never had me to help her.*
Press each sample in a half page of newspaper.
This is a whole sheet. It’s too much paper:
Tear this in half. The paper will keep all the parts of the specimen together and give you a place to write your collection number and any other details.
This is the right amount. Do not get sidetracked reading the comics.
Pressing a plant is like making the Midgardian dish called “lasagna.” Plant press, corrugated cardboard (allows ventilation), blotter paper (wicks moisture away), newspaper.
Carefully lay out your sample on the paper. Nothing should hang out. You may have to fold your plant to fit.
Some plants are uncooperative. This is where it would be helpful sometimes to have a third–or even a fourth–hand. Sigyn, with my magic I could give you an extra — No? Very well. Have it your way. Fold the paper over the plant, top with a blotter, then another cardboard corrugate. Then the press is ready for the next plant!
The human female says it is very important to collect a complete specimen, if you can. Roots are a “must” for non-woody things. Apparently they can tell you a lot, but what would a root say? “Thank goodness I’m not a beet”?
You may need some tools. In soft, loose soil, a screwdriver or even a spoon will do.
The local soils, unfortunately, will bend that spoon on the first try. (Supposedly they are Lufkin Fine Sandy Clay, but I have heard them referred to as Lufkin Fine Sandy Concrete, which is not far off the mark.) Since she couldn’t find her trowel and I was not allowed to supply her with explosives, I provided Sigyn with something that will do the job. I am Loki, God of Overkill.
Be sure to collect a little extra plant material, put it in a plastic bag, and keep it cool. You will want it when it comes time to identify your specimens.
The human female, being a plant nerd, is used to keeping baggies and plastic containers of plant matter in the refrigerator. Her long-suffering spouse, however, is not always amused to find Milkwort where the milk usually goes and Buttercups where the butter should be.
Sigyn has definitely been spending far too much time with the human female. Now my dearest has decided that she doesn’t just want to drag me out looking at plants, she wants to drag me out collecting plants in the Proper Scientific Manner.
Oh, be still my villainous little heart. But I am happy to humor my beloved. Sigyn, if you’ll demonstrate, I’ll narrate.
First rule of collecting: if you only see one of something, don’t pick it. Sigyn really likes Bluets, but she isn’t going to take this lonely one.
This is better! Remember the Rule of Twenty: If you see twenty, you may collect one. Now we’re in business.
Benno is just sad that flowers have to have their lives tragically cut short, even for Science.