Need help caring for succulent plant specimen!

Greetings everyone!

Long story short:

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:

  1. Take a plastic container
  2. Make holes in the bottom of the container as well as on the lid (to allow airflow through the container and padding)
  3. 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)
  4. Place the specimen in the container
  5. Place the lid over the container
  6. 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!

Any help would be appreciated

Thanks guys :slight_smile:

PS: Apologies for the photo quality

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

Thanks Tony!

Unfortunately I do not have any blotting paper here at home and I think I’d be hard pressed to find it where I live (Mooi River)

Do you know of any alternatives I could use in place of the blotting paper?


newspaper will do: just change it daily (and dry in the sun if you want to reuse it. Use Lots.

But your press needs to be good. Two solid planks and lots of bricks will do.

I presume that you have read this: esp. the section on succulents:

But: taxonomists dont like things that are not in flower.
if you can - grow it to flower (but with a risk of it dying and you losing your specimen)

Hi Tony!

Thanks for that link as well as all your help :slight_smile:

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

  1. 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?
  2. 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)
  3. 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
  4. 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?
  5. [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?


This is how much I’ve been weighing the specimen down with, yet to no avail :frowning:

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.

Sorry: I dont press succulents, so I cannot really help.
I would have just frozen them (in the press), or alternatively given them a quick microwave.

But @Cassine - can you not please link Anthony to a succulent curator at SANBI?

One has to smile about all of this…:smile:

Smile? This is a serious matter!

I prefer iSpot where things remain succulent, colourful, 3D - but converting living plants to dry, dusty, 2D, grey specimens is a time-honoured tradition that should not be sneezed at.

1 Like

Please share the joke

I am smiling at your pic. It looks like my desk only half the weight/wait,

Yip I guess I did go a bit crazy with the books :slight_smile:

Was worth it in the end though. After adjusting my methods a bit, this is the end result of the specimen

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!

was just browsing and found this -
I don’t think Prix has seen this -
I’m sure she must be able to add some thoughts
Priscilla Burgoyne (Prix Burgoyne)
Field of Interest
Plants, specifically mesembs, crasulas & portulacas…and of course Cytinus