I went on a bit of a botanical excursion the other day in the hilltop north of Rosetta in Western KZN to get photo’s and a sample specimen of a very interesting Crassula species that I have yet to get a confirmed I.D on (All of this was done with the landowner’s permission, of course)
I have had experience before with preserving non-succulent plant specimens (i.e. plant presses and ethanol treatment) but from what I’ve heard preserving succulent plants is another matter entirely! What I have done so far to preserve this specimen is to:
Take a plastic container
Make holes in the bottom of the container as well as on the lid (to allow airflow through the container and padding)
Cover the bottom and sides of the container with layered tissue paper (to absorb any fluids from the specimen and to insulate it against outside elements)
Place the specimen in the container
Place the lid over the container
Store container in a dark compartment little temperature fluctuation
I’ve attached 2 photo’s to also further show you the manner in which I’m preserving the specimen.
Please could anyone inform me on any better methods I could employ in order to keep this specimen in as preserved a state as possible?
I plan on mailing (somehow) the specimen to UKZN PMB or the Natal Herbarium in Durban in order to get their assistance in the I.D of this plant, so I really need to just preserve it as well as I can!
You need to press it flat and dry it out. Why are you trying to preserve a 3D plant - the taxonomists will be totally confused by the third dimension: it needs to be entirely 2-D.
Press with lots of blotting paper and dry as rapidly as possible to 0 moisture in a press to get it to 2D. If it is really succulent a few minutes in the microwave to explode the cells will help, either in the press, or immediately before pressing it…
What you are doing is growing the plant in the dark and soon no one will be able to identify it at all. It will etiolate to a weird shape, become chlorotic so that the colours will confuse, shed leaves and so forth.
Either pot it out and keep it alive, or kill, squash to 2D and dry it ASAP
I just have a few questions that the link was unable to answer:
Prefix: I should note here that the specimen I’m trying to currently press is a 10mm succulent
Can the Flimsy layers and Drying paper layers be one and the same? I’m pressing another specimen now but all I’m using now is what was referenced by the link as a substitute for flimsies (two newspaper layers on either side of the specimen). Is this sufficient, or should I add a layer/s of something else between the newspaper?
Are the exact (specified) dimensions given by the link crucial down to the last millimeter? I think the link references the required dimensions as being 270mm x 420mm but the dimensions I’ve got for my boards, cardboard etc is more like 280mm x 380/390mm (this is again due to the constraints I have in terms of getting adequate material here in Mooi River)
Are 2 layers of cardboard (one on each side) enough for a succulent specimen? I actually had 2 on each side originally but after seeing that the specimen was not being sufficiently pressed, I took a layer out. The link you gave me showed presses with many layers of cardboard, hence why I ask
I see that the link further expands on the appropriate method on pressing and drying succulents. There a number of interesting methods given which I will try with the next specimen I press. The method I went for now was to submerge the specimen in spirits of some sort (I used 100% ethanol), however, the link says that before you do this, you must use a needle to poke the specimen to allow for penetration of the spirits. I didn’t do this unfortunately. Will my efforts have thus been insufficient or could I still do the correct procedure with a now (relatively) pressed specimen?
[last question] Asides from what I’ve mentioned above and some other trivialities (i.e using dismantled braai grid instead of wooden slats), I have followed the advice from your link quite closely. However, after more than a week of ‘pressing’, my specimen still looks a bit thick (can’t post the image here as its too big). I presume its not supposed to still look like this. Could you just give me some general tips and advice of your own?
For succulents you may need to trim/cut some of the thick portions of a branch and spread it out. Importantly do not use 100% ethanol. Other than it is expensive and should not be easily obtainable: The leaves and stems of succulents will be brittle and break in pieces the moment you put it in the press. At 70% is usually enough. Please note that leaves change colour and turn dark in ethanol. Make notes.
The colour of the specimen took a bit of a hammering. It used to be a dark, glossy red before I applied solvent to it (petrol). In future, I think I must just dilute the solvent first with water. Other than that though, I think it turned out alright!