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What Is a Herbarium?

an opened handmade journal with dry flowers and leaves pressed and glued to the pages

Fall is the perfect time for scavaging for junk journal supplies! From festival brochures and aged school stationery to my favorite – dying flowers and fallen leaves. In this blog post, we will discuss what a herbarium is, how it is used, and where you can find one. We will also explore the importance of herbaria and how they contribute to our understanding of the plant world.

A Brief History of Herbarium

The history of herbarium dates back to ancient civilizations, where early botanists sought to document the vast array of plant species that adorned the Earth. However, The oldest known herbaria were created in the Middle Ages. These were collections of medicinal plants, often accompanied by illustrations and descriptions. 

The first scientific herbarium was created by Luca Ghini, an Italian botanist, in 1543. Ghini's herbarium was a collection of pressed and dried plant specimens, arranged according to a systematic classification system. Ghini's herbarium inspired other botanists to create their own herbaria. By the 17th century, there were herbaria in many major cities in Europe. These herbaria were used by scientists to study the diversity and distribution of plants and to develop new classification systems.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, herbaria were used to document the plants of newly explored regions. This information was essential for understanding the ecology and evolution of plants. Herbaria also played an important role in the development of plant taxonomy, the science of classifying plants.

Today, there are herbaria all over the world. They are an essential resource for botanists, ecologists, and other scientists who study plants. You can even make your own botanical collection with the pants you find in your garden or while traveling.

museum photo of an arranged colelction with herbarium plants

What Is the Reason for Herabrium?

Plant Identification and Diversity: Herbaria serve as reference libraries for plant identification. The vast assortment of specimens enables researchers, students, and enthusiasts to compare and contrast plant characteristics, aiding in accurate species identification.

Plant Evolution and Ecology: The preserved specimens in herbaria provide a temporal perspective on plant evolution. By studying the morphological changes across specimens from different eras, scientists can trace the evolutionary trajectory of various plant species. 

Plant Conservation: As the world grapples with biodiversity loss, herbaria play a pivotal role in plant conservation. The documented specimens serve as a baseline for assessing the impact of environmental changes on plant populations and guiding conservation efforts.

Here Is Why You Should Start Your Herbarium Collection:

Starting a herbarium journal can be an enriching and fulfilling hobby. I started my very own collection a few years ago, however, it isn't thoroughly organized and most of my favorite dry leaves are decayed. But sometimes I add printed leaves into my journals for an antique, vintage twist. Download and print a freebie page with my favorite fallen leaves and add them to your creative junk journal as well.

Here are three compelling reasons why you should consider beginning your own herbarium journal:

  • 1. Deepening Your Botanical Knowledge 

Creating a herbarium journal requires you to observe, study, and document plant specimens in detail. Through this process, you'll develop a keen eye for the nuances of plant morphology, leaf arrangements, flower structures, and other characteristics. This hands-on engagement will deepen your understanding of botany and enhance your ability to identify and appreciate various plant species. As you build your journal, you'll learn about the intricacies of plant taxonomy, evolution, and ecological adaptations, fostering a sense of awe and wonder for the natural world around you.

  • 2. Cultivating a Connection with Nature 

Maintaining a herbarium journal encourages you to spend time outdoors, exploring diverse habitats and ecosystems to collect specimens. This experience fosters a profound connection with nature, as you immerse yourself in the serene beauty of forests, meadows, wetlands, and more. Engaging in this process can be meditative and therapeutic, allowing you to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life while immersing yourself in the tranquility of natural surroundings. This practice nurtures a sense of mindfulness and appreciation for the rhythms of the natural world.

  • 3. Nurturing Creativity and Artistry Through Herbarium Journaling

Herbarium journaling can be a great way to learn about plants and their diversity. It can also be a therapeutic way to connect with nature. The process of pressing and drying plants requires patience and attention to detail, which can be calming and meditative.

Additionally, the act of creating a herbarium journal can be a form of self-expression. You can choose to decorate your journal with drawings, paintings, or other embellishments. This can be a way to express your creativity and appreciation for the natural world.

If you are interested in trying herbarium journaling, there are many resources available online and in libraries. You can download my digital junk journal bundle called 'Vintage Herbarium', assemble the pages, and preserve your precious specimens for years.

a mockup of digital junk jounrla called vintage herbarium

How to Preserve Dry Flowers and Leaves and Add Them to Your Junk Journal

First, collect your plant specimens. Choose fresh, healthy leaves and flowers that are not wilted or damaged. Next, place the plant specimens between sheets of newspaper or blotting paper. This will help to absorb any moisture and prevent the plants from rotting.

Then, place the plant specimens in the plant press. The plant press should have a tight seal to prevent the plants from drying out too quickly. Press the plants for several weeks, or until they are completely dry. Once the plants are dry, you can remove them from the plant press and mount them on acid-free paper. You can also add labels with the scientific and common names of the plants.

To add your dry flowers and leaves to a junk journal, you can use glue or tape to adhere them to the pages of the journal. You can also use a needle and thread to sew them in place. If you are using glue, be sure to use an acid-free glue. Acid-free glue will help to preserve your herbarium specimens.

When arranging your flowers and leaves, be creative and have fun! You can arrange them in a variety of ways, such as by color, shape, or size. You can also add other embellishments to your junk journal, such as drawings, stickers, or photographs. Your junk journal is a great way to preserve your memories of the natural world. It is also a unique and creative way to express your artistic side.

an opened book with pressed dried flowers

Wrapping Up...

In conclusion, herbaria are valuable resources for botanists, ecologists, and other scientists who study plants. They are also a great way for people of all ages to learn about plants and connect with nature.

If you are interested in creating your own herbarium, I encourage you to start by learning about the different types of plant presses and how to use them. You can also find many resources online and in libraries that can teach you about plant identification and herbarium mounting. With a little patience and care, you can create a beautiful and informative herbarium that will last for generations to come.

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