How to Press Flowers: Make a Plant Press

| 12/9/2010 3:32:27 PM

E.McIntoshErin is the Communications Manager at Mountain Rose Herbs and an apprenticing herbalist at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies, where she botanizes and wildcrafts medicinal plants in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.  

The frosty, bloomless months of fall and winter offer their own charms as mosses, lichens and mushrooms pop from every moist nook under the forest canopy, but who doesn’t long for the sun-filled beauty of handpicked wildflowers? The colorful blossoms of spring and summer can be enjoyed year-round with one simple tool that is easily crafted during a lazy afternoon at home: plant presses. 

Erin pressed these beautiful romanzoffia and collinsia flowers last spring.
Photo by Erin McIntosh

Plant presses have been used for hundreds of years to dry and preserve specimens for safe travel across vast continents and rough seas. Explorers would guard their botanical treasures like gold, hoping to return home with a variety of floral curiosities for later identification, taxonomic cataloging and even cherished supplies for artwork.

Presses can be small enough to carry in your hiking pack, perfect for collecting herbaceous plant leaves, roots and flowers as you wander, or they can be made large enough to press a towering Verbascum thapsus from your garden, root to flower. It is important to press flowers as soon as possible after picking them to improve your results and avoid wilting. You should also make note of the plant’s common name, Latin name, location, height, habitat, abundance, date, and other valuable information that can fade from memory and leave you stumped when you’re finally ready to use your pressings. (Read Discover the Lost Art of Keying Wild Plants.)

Your dried flowers, leaves, ferns and roots can be mounted in glass for display, placed in papier-mâché crafts, used to make stationery and scrapbooks, or to adorn homemade candles. Another fun project would be to document your favorite wild or garden plants in a home herbarium. To do this, simply arrange your specimens on acid-free paper with all of the pertinent harvesting information and glue or cover with contact paper to conveniently catalog your prized pressings.