Technique for carrying plant samples
  There are many methods for handling plant samples you collect.  Here is a "recipe" for equipment that costs little to assemble.  Many botanists have found this useful.

  As with any recipe, you will want to vary it to your own taste.

  The basic ingredients are few:
  • large plastic ziplock bags, available at any grocery store.
  • a miniature "caribeener" keyclip.
  • a large binder ring (not a keyring), available from most any office supply store.
  (Depiction of a certain brand name does not imply endorsement of that brand)

  You may want to choose a brightly colored mini-biner, to spot easier in the brush.

  Bags without the slider work best.  The sliders get caught on things.


    Many botanists are familiar with using plastic bags to hold plants.  This idea make everything more hands-free.  Simply punch the binder ring through a corner of each bag.
  You may want to punch through the bottom corners of all bags except one.  That way, most openings will hang down.

  The one bag pointing up serves as a pouch for equipment such as specimen labels, pens, and collecting tools.

  A handy tool is a table knife, available for about ten cents at any second hand store.  You can use it to both dig and cut.

  Choose knives constructed in one solid piece.

  Mark knives with colored flagging ribbon held on with duct tape.  Otherwise, a dropped knife is very hard to see in the brush.

  To complete the setup, close the binder ring and clip the mini-biner through.
  The unit can hang from a belt loop.  The slick plastic seldom gets tangled and torn as you walk through brush.  When bags do wear out, just replace them.
  When you collect a plant, simply swing one of the bags up, drop in the sample, and zip the bag shut.
  The one bag with opening at the top stands out as the holder for equipment.

  (Some people prefer all the bags up.  They are concerned specimens will fall out, though this does not happen if the bags are zipped shut.)

  Some collectors pre-load each bag with a label, ready for the specimen.

  Plants don't tend to "cook" in the bags unless left lying directly in the sun.  However, this can happen quickly.  One case to watch out for is sunlight coming through vehicle windows, even while driving with air conditioning on.

  You can keep a few un-punched ziplock bags in the equipment pouch for crispy-dry specimens.  Carefully insert the plant, add a squirt of water, blow up the bag like a pillow, and zip it shut.  By the time you are ready to press, the dry specimen will have softened enough to flatten without crumbling.

Rick Shory
Natural Resource Ecology Lab
Colorado State University, Fort Collins CO
970/ 491-5835

Page updated 5/25/2001