Bulletin 12 - November 1980: Hints on Collecting Grasses
Hints on Collecting Grasses
What to collect: We are naturally interested in uncommon
grasses or specimens from new or unusual localities; but we also welcome common
grasses from overseas, provided they are really good specimens suitable for
critical taxonomic study. Groups of specimens chosen to show the range of
variation of a species over a small area, or in different habitats, are
especially valuable. Seeds are also very welcome, as they enable us to carry out
How to collect: Specimens should be laid out as neatly as
possible, and pressed flat between sheets of paper 10.25 by 16.5 in a plant
press. A special absorbent drying paper is best, but several sheets of newspaper
folded in half are quite satisfactory. Grasses dry very quickly and seldom give
trouble, but it is best to change the papers every day or so - specimens dried
too slowly tend to go moldy, or at least to shed their spikelets. The following
points should be noted:
- Get the whole plant, especially the rootstock as it is often most important
to know whether it is annual or perennial, rhizomatous, stoloniferous or
tufted, etc. If the plant is so large that this is impossible, then note the
height, growth habit, and etc. on the label.
- Fold tall plants zigzag fashion to fit the drying paper.
- Sterile specimens are usually unidentifiable; those with very immature
flowers, or so old that the florets are mostly shed, are almost as worthless.
Bamboos, with rarely flower, are an exception; collect a leafy shoot, culm
sheath, and a piece of culm; note height, and whether rhizomatous or clumped.
- If possible, get more than one specimen, as duplicates are eagerly sought
by other herbaria. When collecting duplicates, do not stuff in a big handful
and hope for the best, for it is most difficult to disentangle once it becomes
dry and brittle. Instead, lay the duplicates out between separate sheets of
drying paper as carefully as time allows.
How to label: If your specimen is to be of any scientific
value, a properly written label is essential. Some prefer to write labels and
insert them with the specimens on the spot; others tie number tags on the
specimens, and write their collecting data in a notebook from which labels can
be prepared at leisure. The latter is preferable as there is less chance of
losing the notes. Note the following points:
- Locality. The more exact, the better but please mention the nearest
large town as trying to locate obscure villages on maps of a strange country
is a most thankless task.
- Description. Don't bother about features that are self evident from
the specimen, but record peculiarities of growth or coloring that may not be
apparent in the dried specimen.
- Habitat. Most important, particularly if the plant is confined to a
specialized habitat such as swamps or deep shade. Even if it is not, it is
very helpful to have some indication as to whether the specimen is likely to
be a robust plant from a favorable site, or vice versa.
- Collector's name and number. The specimen will be referred to in
future by your name and collecting number, so give each specimen (or set of
duplicates) a different number. Simply start at 1 and carry on in numerical
sequence ad infinitum.
How to dispatch
Royal Botanic Gardens
- Lay each specimen loose in a newspaper folder. Do not stick the specimens
down with Sellotape.
- Make a pile of the newspaper folders, put a piece of stiff cardboard top
and bottom, and tie tightly. Specimens are seldom harmed by tying too tightly,
but are easily ruined if they shake loose in transit.
- Make a brown paper parcel, and send by post.
22 August 1966