like to collect three similar fruit samples from a focus tree. I keep
one intact, showing the fruit as a whole. I open the second sample
but keep the seeds inside to show their arrangement. I remove a
single seed to display from the third sample. If a seed has interesting
internal features, I display one opened up, as well.
A display of fruit and seeds really pops when placed on a white paper
set in a shallow tray. I attach a photograph of the fruit when fresh, as
some seeds, especially berries, change color as they dry. If applicable,
a display card is included to explain how I use the fruit. For example, I
make jelly with highbush cranberries and flour with acorn meats.
To display cones, I collect both an unopened and a fully opened
one. Between the two seasons, I gather seeds from an opened cone
before it is devoured by critters and birds.
Barbara Mackay is a teacher and naturalist who lives in northern Vermont.
use styrofoam meat trays to carry flowers as I collect them. The
non-slip surface supports their structure and helps keep small
parts from falling away. Some species require a special approach.
To collect birch seeds, for example, set out several trays for the
seeds to fall onto. To carry the tray home, place it into a paper bag
– flat-bottomed lunch bags are perfect.
In many cases, I add the tray directly to my display without pressing
or drying the flowers. If you prefer to glue a flower onto a card,
the flower should be pressed (see photo at right) and dried first.
Drying flowers is similar to drying leaves: I use a six- or seven-pound weight so that the flowers are flattened but not crushed.
Instead of trying to move the flowers directly, I lift the paper they
are lying on and transfer that to the fresh newspaper. Flowers
may take up to two weeks to dry. After drying, delicate flowers
can be stored in glassine envelopes, which are available at the
Post Office or philately supply sources.
White school glue works well to adhere pressed flowers to a card:
dilute it one to one with water and use an artist’s paintbrush to
dab it onto the paper. Place the flower on top of the glue, cover
with a sheet of wax paper, and press with a two- or three-pound
book. A couple of hours is usually enough to ensure that the
flower parts have dried into the glue.
ark appearance varies considerably between different trees.
Collecting and displaying samples is a great way to illustrate this
diversity. To include the most detail possible, I preserve bark from
three areas: a new branch, an older branch, and the main bole.
There are three ways to add bark samples to your collection. One is to collect a piece of actual bark,
another is to make a rubbing, and the third is to take a photograph. I like to combine the three.
To collect bark, use a heavy hunting or utility knife to slice a representative section from a recently downed or dead
tree; if you’re cutting live trees for logs or firewood and want to collect some bark as well, the best time to do this is
in early July, when the bark is loosest. Each type of bark is a little different. With black cherry, for instance, the sample
might be four by eight inches to include a full “potato chip” curl. Try to include the inner bark on your selections.
Bark rubbings can be made with tagboard (on heavily textured barks) or paper (on smoother barks), and a
selection of crayons or oil pastels. Combining colors usually lets you produce a close match to the bark. Rub
steadily with large strokes. Pressing the paper very slightly into nooks and crannies will help them stand out
on the finished product.
Photographing bark can be as simple as a close-up snapshot. Taking pictures in both the sun and the shade can
sometimes reveal different characteristics of the bark.
A nature collection can be as formal or as casual as your time and interest dictates. For those more
serious about the endeavor, plant presses can be purchased or made with plywood and corrugated
cardboard. Mounting paper can be acquired from a biological supplier or its substitute picked up at a
local store. Display cases can be custom-built. Alternatively, you can keep things simple and just exhibit
everything on a small table. However you choose to build and organize your collection, I hope that
your connection to nature deepens as you gather, study, preserve, and share your outdoor treasures.