A Pressing Problem

We have a pressing problem here at the Rye Nature Center...a plant pressing problem that is.

We have hundreds of different plants growing in our forest at the Rye Nature Center. From trees to wildflowers to vines to shrubs and ferns -- it's difficult to keep track of the variety of species. So in order to inventory and track what we have, we're creating an herbarium. That means that we are collecting samples of these plants and pressing them to preserve a permanent record.

new york fern.jpg

Timing is everything when it comes to pressing plants. If at all possible, plants should be pressed when they are fresh and alive. And as you probably have noticed, it is now cold, which means the plants are pretty much through for the year. (Or at least all plants except those we call evergreens are through for the year.) We've been working on the collection for a few months now, but collecting takes time; identifying unfamiliar plants takes lots of time; mounting specimens takes time. The work is being done by a volunteer a couple of hours a week and by the Nature Center's staff.


Another part of the pressing problem is that we have been collecting the easy plants: those which are within reach, and those which we are familiar with. Still to come are the ones too high to collect easily, like the trees whose branches start 15 or 20 feet up the tree. Or what's even more difficult, are those which we aren't familiar with, which need to have their identity researched through our library or through the internet. Well, you get the point. So...we're winding up this collecting and pressing season and looking forward to getting an early start in the spring.

Although the herbarium is far from complete, we think there's enough done to make it interesting to look at: for instance the leaves of about 45 different trees are pressed so far, and the leaves of over 25 different wildflowers, along with loads of ferns, vines, and shrubs. If you'd like to look at it, let us know and we'll try to set up an appointment for you. And if you are interested in helping us press and preserve, let us know that too. We think it's well worth the time and effort.

—Michael Penziner, Volunteer