hydrurga's picture

Plant samples

I tried recently, for the first time, to take some samples of a couple of plants that I couldn't identify, so that I could examine them at home. They were plentiful enough to allow that. However the degradation in the plant samples was very quick, especially the flower sections.

Does anybody have an idea of how best to collect samples of plants either (i) for examination within a few hours; (ii) for longer-term storage for examination by someone else in a few days'/weeks' time? I list these separately because the storage methods might be different.



Rachy Ramone's picture

Plant samples.

First suggestion would definitely be plastic: plastic bags, the sort with the grip-top strip as sold for sandwich bags, work quite well.

Often you can get ones with a white panel, so you can write date, comments etc on it.

I would suggest gently squashing out as much air as possible as you seal the bag.

I have also used plastic pots, the ones that takeaways come in, they work quite well. For a while I had a pile of them, with the lids numbered in felt pen, so I could box a specimen, making a note in my notebook as to the box number and the relevant details. This means you can use them repeatedly.

The gardening answer would be to take a pail of water and keep the stems in it, but that's not very practical!

At home, I find they store best in the fridge, or somewhere cool and dark like a window-less garage, or a cupboard with an air vent.

Hope this helps!

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:

landgirl's picture

Plant specimens

A plastic bag is always tucked in my pocket. The sort that is sold for sandwiches, with a sticky seal, is good but not very big. A large zip-lock type bag is better for grasses and larger bits. The plants last long enough to examine at home. If you want them to last longer, you will have to dry and press them, then mount like herbarium sheets.
When I was a child, I was given something called, I think, a vasculum. It was metal, oval in cross-section, perhaps 40 cm long, with a door in one of the long sides. I understand that it would have been lined with moss and used to carry plant samples.

markwilson's picture


Yes a vasculum was essential for the Victorian botanist - I've used on the was also large enough to hold a small vacuum flask.

There's an article


The magazine of one of the North-east Naturalists Clubs was also called "The Vasculum"

landgirl's picture


Thanks for that link - I wasn't even sure I was remembering the right word! I wish I'd kept it, no idea what happened to it.

markwilson's picture


From BSBI News 1981

A Vasculum in the Attic?
Following the request for Vascula from the
attic, BSBI News 26'.4,there is now a small surplus on offer.
Since David Allen's plea
Conserve the Vasculum, BSBI News 12:23-24,
we have had a
surprisingly varied collection of vascula
kindly donated for redistribution to
The last quotation we had for a new Vasculum was for,£l1-20 according to size, from T.
Gerrard & Co, Gerrard House, Worthing Road,
Littlehampton, West Sussex

hydrurga's picture


Many thanks to everyone for your good advice. I'd never heard of a vasculum either (there's a nice picture of one in this article http://corgyncombecourant.blogspot.co.uk/2010_05_01_archive.html). They look great! I can just imagine myself walking in the forest with one of these slung around my shoulder, complete with wee flask of course.