Exerpted from Golden Hours (a Victorian children's magazine)
May, 1878, pp. 232-233.
Even those who think that "botany" is a repulsive science, bristling with unmeaning and unpronounceable names, will probably confess themselves fond of gathering plants. Some love to cull flowers, others to hunt for ferns, and others, again, to collect grasses. The mere mention of these things will awaken in the minds of many who read our pages a longing for green fields, shady lanes, and bosky dells; mingled, perchance, with a little impatience for the full bloom of Spring or Summer. We wish to appeal to such feelings, and to turn them to some account in the present paper; for what is "out-door botanizing," but picking plants, with something more of knowledge and definite purpose than the gatherer usually possesses? Do not take fright at a few technical terms. Every language and every trade must needs have them; and what if every lad who is apprenticed to a watchmaker, or every lass who begins to learn French, were to give up in despair because a number of unfamiliar words had to be committed to memory and understood? Nay, our dear old English Bible and our holy religion have their technical terms, which we are learning, or have already learned, with more or less facility. Botany will prove just as intelligible, if we will only throw our fears aside, and be content to learn by degrees.
Our young friends, we will assume, are desirous of taking a first step in plant-lore by becoming collectors. This is truly a step; for no book knowledge, can compare, for interest and benefit, with actual inspection of living plants.
For gathering and preparing, you will require but cheap and simple implements—a digger, a tin box (called a vasculum), and a press. A hand-trowel, such as you can buy at a hardware-store, or even an old case-knife, will form a capital tool for digging. A vasculum is a long tin box, which is strapped to the side of the collector like a telescope case; but a press has some advantages. It is made thus: two pieces of mahogany, or some other wood which will not bend, are strapped together, and a quire or two of blotting-paper placed between them. Fifteen inches by eleven is a convenient size for the boards; and, by means of a third strap, the press may be easily carried. As soon as a plant is selected, it is carefully taken up—root and all, if not too large—with the digger, shaken free from earth, and laid between two half-sheets of paper, in as natural a position as possible. The straps are then tightened, and the collector moves on.
The plants thus gathered will need to be preserved by drying and further pressure. The drying process is accomplished by keeping the specimens between sheets of blotting, or porous paper for some days, changing the paper several times, so as to remove all moisture. They are then fixed to sheets of cartridge or post paper, with gum or thin glue, and kept in a drawer supplied with camphor to keep out insects. But as the drying must be under pressure, the aforesaid boards, or two stouter ones of slightly larger dimensions, may be used, the requisite pressure being given by screws and nuts, or by weights, such as bricks neatly packed in holland or brown paper. If the latter are used, a dozen or sixteen will be required.
Some plants preserve their colors in drying much better than others; but in the eyes of a collector, the specimens he has gathered in his own hands are always replete with beauty and interest.
Having gathered, pressed, and mounted his plants, the most important work remains yet to be done. We lose much of the interest pertaining to plant-collecting, unless we can ascertain what species they are which we have obtained. For this purpose an elementary book on botany must first be studied. The beginner must proceed cautiously, avoiding, above all things, "jumping to conclusions." Let him first master the different parts and organs of a plant, and then he will be prepared to allot a given specimen in its proper class, order, genus, and species, in succession. And the pleasure of discovery, when he has succeeded, will be found a very real and encouraging pleasure indeed. After the parts and organs of the plants are learned, our young readers may get a high-school botany, containing a list of the principal plants found in the country. Wood's or Gray's Botany is a good one to use.
It is a good plan, when a sufficient number of specimens can be obtained, to pick duplicates of those which you press, and put them in water for examination, as it is not easy to investigate dried plants.
If you liked this page, you might also enjoy the following:
A Floral Flirtation (Poem—1889)
A Plea For the Old-Fashioned Lavender (1880)
Language and Sentiment of Flowers (1891)
Out-door Botanizing (1878)
Victoria, B.C., Canada: Downs and ups on an anniversary trip —or, How we were denied entrance to Victoria's most famous garden for dressing too decently, yet still managed to find many lovely flowers in much better places
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