Spring 2011



1. Collect, identify, and prepare specimens of 20 species from at least 15 families. All material must be collected this semester for this class.  (No fair turning in your 6th grade leaf collection or something for another course.)

2. Your specimens need to be angiosperms--flowering plants (no ferns or gymnosperms) and must have flower, fruit, or both present.

3. Your plants specimens must represent wild plants.  Do not collect cultivated material--nothing planted in yards, in flower beds, etc., even if you didn't plant it. Cultivated material will not be accepted.

4.  You may not collect in these places:  The main campus of Texas A&M University, Lick Creek Park, Bee Creek Park, or the Arboretum. Avoid the Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection and Kiwanis Nature Trails. Be careful with parks, golf courses, apartment complexes, cemeteries, etc.--the trees and shrubs there are often planted. National and State parks are a no-no-without a permit.

5.  Plants must be properly collected, identified, and dried (see complete directions below.)

6.  The project is due in two stagesHand in a first group of 5 specimens plus labels and summary sheet for grading by the start of your lab period on the date indicated on the syllabus. This group will be graded and returned so that you can see how you are doing.  The full collection (15 new plants plus the original 5, corrected,) WITH OLD AND NEW LABELS, PLUS NEW AND OLD SUMMARY SHEET) is due by  the date indicated on the syllabus. If you fail to turn in the first 5 plants along the way, you will only be allowed to turn in 15 at the end. Your first 5 plants MUST be part of your final collection--do not swap anything out.


1. KEEPING THE FIELD LOG:  Keep a field log or notebook for writing down collection data (see sample page). Give each specimen a different number (your collection number) as you collect it, and keep all information for the specimen associated with this number. Submit this log for review every time you come to lab and when you turn in collections. Make your log day by day IN THE FIELD--don't fudge one at turn-in time!  We don't care if it's neat--we want to see FIELD notes. Record your own observations, not information given in a book. You can later transfer all of this info to your labels.
       For each plant, record: 
a) habitat description--as complete as possible--include at least four things: soil type, moisture, exposure (sun/shade), other plants, land use (lawn, pasture, vacant lot, etc.)  Weather does not count--if the sun is out, is the plant in the sun or shade?  "Open area" is too vague--what kind?
b) additional information (flower or fruit color, height of your particular plant, etc.),
c) location - be specific--i.e., "roadside ditch along E. side Hwy. 6, 2 mi N of Jct. with FM 1640, 6 mi. S. of College Station" is much better than "roadside S of College Station", and be sure to include nearest city. (If you don't think we will recognize a word as a town name, write "town of...") GPS coordinates are great in addition to a verbal location statement, but are not a substitute.  More info on this page.
d) your name,
e) the number you gave your plant when you collected it,
f) growth form (herb, vine, tree, or shrub), and
g) date of collection--do not use numbers for the month; abbreviate it or write it out.

2.  COLLECTING THE PLANTS:   You can make high quality specimens by pressing the plants while in the field, following the instructions of your TA.  If you can't press in the field, put your collected plants into plastic bags, keep them cool and moist (but do not freeze them!), and press them as soon as possible (preferably the same day.) For keying, collect and plastic-bag a small bit of fresh plant material in addition to the pressed specimen. This extra fresh material will keep up to a week or two in the fridge (wrapped in wet paper towel or newspaper in a baggie or plastic container) or may be frozen for longer storage but poorer quality. It will not be good for pressing. Flat, dry plants are hard to key.

    STERILE MATERIAL will not be accepted at all: either flower or fruit (preferably both) must be present in the dried specimen. Root parts are required for herbaceous species. Press enough material to essentially fill half a sheet of folded newspaper--about 11" x 16". Small species should be represented by several individuals, large herbs should be folded (not cut), and woody plants should be trimmed so that critical characteristics (leaves, flowers, fruits) are present in the preserved specimen. Try not to turn in things in bits.  Put nothing in plastic--it will mold.  Loose parts go in a paper envelope marked with your name and collection number.  There should be no loose soil.  DON'T collect abnormal or damaged plants. Very WET specimens will not be accepted.  For more information, see the course FAQ.

    Press and enclose each specimen in 1/2 sheet (e.g. p. 1 and p. 2 of the Batt) of folded newspaper and include a specimen label data form. Don't tape, staple, clip, or glue anything.  Don't worry about mounting your plants.

***If you collect anything more than normally sharp or with with stinging hairs or with irritant sap, please label the outside of the newspaper and the top of your collection sheet in  BIG RED LETTERS.  E.g. "Stinging hairs!" or "Caution--prickly!!"

3. IDENTIFYING THE PLANTS: You'll find that identification through the use of your key is much easier if you have fresh material and work in the laboratory. Also, your T.A. and lab coordinator are there to help (but not provide names). Read Keying Guidelines for help on which books to use. Remember to check your identification after keying by comparing your specimen against material in the student herbarium. In this way you can be 100% sure of all your IDs before you turn anything in.  You are free to work in Rm. 004. This room has dryers, books needed for identification, and the reference herbarium. Please don't remove books from 004. Access to room 004 for study and keying specimens is available every week day, except during lab practical weeks.  DO NOT EXPECT to identify your plants with a guidebook or the web or by just looking in the herbarium.  Plan now to spend some time in the lab.  Seriously. 

4. PRESERVING THE PLANTS:  Dry your plants as soon as possible after pressing.  NOTE:  When using the dryers in Rm. 004, allow AT LEAST 5 days.  Juicy or bulky specimens will take longer.  The press can be taken out and put back in, but plants remain in th press until dry. You may also try using a box fan blowing through the press at home.  Using an oven or a microwave does not do the job. Wet specimens are unacceptable.

5.  TURNING IN THE PLANTS:  Refer to the Checklists in your packet for what is needed for each part of the project.  Hand in field log,  labels, and a COLLECTION SUMMARY SHEET  with the first 5 and with the full collection.  On the summary sheet, provide: 1) your name, 2) your lab section, 3) your collection numbers,  and 4) your identifications (family, genus, specific epithet). Other items on the collection summary sheet are used for grading. Please list plants in alphabetical order by family and turn in the plants in the same order as the list. You absolutely  MUST return your plant press (press boards, 20 blotters, and 11 corrugates) when you turn in your final collection or we'll give you an I for the course and block you..   


1. Complete and correct name (3 points per plant): This includes family name, genus name, specific epithet and authority. Get the authority when you key from the book you key with--don't waste time going back to look it up later.  Read Keying Guidelines to learn which books to use and how to check your identifications later. Spelling counts. Please use "-aceae" family names. Common name is not required.

2 .Complete data (1 point per label):  This information includes everything listed for your field log, above.  Don't forget to include the citation on the label--the title or author and year of the book you used to key, and page number where species description of plant appears.  Get this information when you key the plant out!  Any unfilled blank on a label means the loss of that label's data point. 

***IMPORTANT: If you correct one of your first 5 plants, be sure to include BOTH labels in the final collection.

3. Complete specimen (1 point per plant):

4. Diversity.  When the final grade is determined, one point will be deducted from the total for each family less than 15 that you have. Only correctly-identified, acceptable specimens count. We won't count it if it's sterile, cultivated, very wet, or violates one of the following rules:

     Spring Non-Collectible and Restricted Plants

5. Time. Because it takes so long to grade collections, we must have them all in on time. Late penalties are 1 point per day for the first five plants and 5 points per day for the full collection.  Early turn-in is encouraged--beat the rush!


Spelling errors
Label Data
Damp Plants
Raggy Newspapers
Loose Dirt
Over-tall plants can be carefully re-folded.


**You may not substitute good specimens for bad. The SAME plants must be used.
**You may not take out a non-collectible or any other plant which is not acceptable--e.g., sterile, obviously cultivated, more than one from the limited list, or not an angiosperm. Check these things very carefully the first time around!
** In the final collection, if you omit any plant(s) you have previously turned in, we will put back the points (or points off) for the original plant(s) and remove a corresponding number of your new submissions.
**Late points


Piglet likes dandelions best...

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Last modified January 3, 2011 by Monique Reed