Making a Collection of Tree Mounts

Make a good collection of tree identification mounts. It will help you keep your tree identification skills sharp and will enable you to help others learn about trees and what they do for people. There are five steps in making a collection of high quality tree identification mounts:

  1. Gather good materials
  2. Keep specimens fresh before pressing
  3. Press to retain natural appearance
  4. Mount specimens securely and attractively
  5. Protect from breakage

Gathering Materials

A collection of mounted tree parts can become an identification aid. It has the highest value if each mount presents as many identifying characteristics as possible. So, in addition to leaves, you may collect fruits, flowers, bark and twigs whenever possible. Try to collect other tree parts that are very helpful in identifying the species. For trees with cones, a whole cone need not be mounted. You could use half a cone. Or, you may take a cone apart and get only some of the scales for mounting Identification aids that are hard to get or bulky can be sketched on the mount card to one side of the leaves.  

Collect leaves in the early summer after they are fully grown. Too young and too small leaves may not be of the size that is representative of the species. Also, pressed young leaves turn dark because of their high moisture content. If collecting is delayed until later summer, find leaves that have not been damaged by sun, insects, diseases or pollutants. Avoid damaged leaves. Leaves from suckers, sprouts and seedlings usually are oversized and do not truly represent the species.  

Twigs of deciduous species should be collected in winter or early spring. This is while the trees are bare. Flowers should be collected when fully developed. Also, fruits should be mature or nearly so. Select mounting materials that appear to be most representative of the species.  

You may use 8 1/2'' x 11" (22 cm x 28 cm) paper or cards to make your mounts. The sizes of the specimens you select should fit the size of the mounting sheet. Large flowers or fruits, thick bark or heavy twigs may be better sketched than mounted. This is due to the difficulty in mounting such bulky objects. Sometimes it is better to make fairly thin cross sections or longitudinal sections of cones, nuts, twigs or bark. Then, use these sections on the mounts. 

Keeping Materials Fresh

Leaves and flowers are your main concern. A good way to keep such materials fresh is to have a press that you can carry along on collecting trips. Then as you collect materials, put them in the press before they wilt. If you go collecting before you have a press, use one of the following methods to help keep your materials in good condition until they can be put to press: 

  • Take along one or two magazines and some paper towels. Carefully place specimens between paper towels in the magazines. Keep them there until they can be pressed. This method is improved if two pieces of stiff cardboard are used for support. Keep the magazine(s) between the cardboards. Use two or three strong rubber bands to hold the packet together. 
  • Cut several pieces of cardboard 9" x 12" size (or 24 cm x 30 cm). Place paper towels or sheets of newspaper between them. Put collected specimens between the towels or newspaper. Hold the packet together with two or three stout rubber bands. 
  • Use a covered cardboard, plastic or light metal box of convenient size. Place specimens on a moist sponge or newspaper in the box as they are collected. Keep the box in the coolest surroundings possible until the specimens can be placed in a press. 

Pressing Specimens for Natural Appearance

The first condition is a satisfactory press. An easily made press is the cardboard press described under Keeping Your Materials Fresh. Use corrugated cardboard and cut the pieces so that all corrugations run the same direction. If possible, obtain enough blotting paper to have at least one sheet for each plant that is expected to be in the press at any one time.  

Put the plant specimens between sheets of newspaper. Then, place a blotter between each two plants. Insert a cardboard every third or fourth plant. Use large rubber bands or straps with rubber sections inserted to hold the press packet together. When the press is loaded, place it where it will stay dry and warm and will have good air circulation around it. Place the press on a hard surface with considerable weight on top. About 50 pounds or 25 kilograms is recommended. This weight can be anything handled easily. Use weights such as a box of rock, sand, bricks, wheel weights or metal scrap.  

Another press is the wooden frame press. The inside of a wooden press can be identical to the cardboard press described above. The wooden frames with good binders take the place of the weight. The best binders are adjustable canvas straps with attached binding devices. A press can seldom be clinched tightly enough with string, rope, or rubber band binders. With these, use additional weights on the press.  

Place fresh plant materials in the press. Read carefully the section about keeping tree leaf specimens fresh. You may go on a collecting tour and be unable to take your plant press. If so, do your collecting as late in the tour as possible. That will give your plant materials less time for wilting before you get them into your press. The next step is placing each specimen in the press carefully. A specimen's arrangement cannot be changed after it is pressed. Do not fold leaves. Make them lie flat. If they are all attached to a twig, be sure at least one is turned so that its under surface shows. Avoid putting bulky twigs, flowers and fruits in the same press with the leaves. If bulky parts need to be pressed, place them in a second press. Twigs and many tree fruits need not be pressed. They may be cured or dried out by keeping them in a dry place.  

Remember, each specimen should be placed between sheets of newspaper. It is best to place each between blotters. Use a piece of corrugated cardboard every third or fourth specimen. Be sure to use enough binder pressure or weight to press materials flat. This keeps leaves from wrinkling.  

Allow a week to ten days for pressing. A good idea is to open up your press two days after putting specimens in it. If you have extra blotters, then change the blotters in your press. If not, then carefully change the newspaper sheets. Let your blotters dry as much as possible while the press is open. In pressing, the moisture in the plants is absorbed by the papers and blotters. If the papers and/or blotters are not changed, some of the leaves may turn black. One change of papers or blotters usually is enough, unless one is pressing some fairly large specimens with succulent leaves or fruits.  

Mounting Pressed Specimens

Pressed specimens are to be attached to the mounting cards. A good way is to spread a common white glue on the back or underside of each specimen. With the glue surface downward, place the specimen in the exact position desired on the mount card. Lay a sheet of wax paper over it. Place on top of the wax paper a 11 pound or 5 kilogram bag of sand. The bag should have enough slack in it to allow spreading over the entire specimen. A stack of books or catalogs might be used. Let the weight and wax paper remain until the glue has dried. Clear tape can also be used. Masking tape or rubber cement may be used on paper or cards, too.  

Protecting Mounted Specimens

Now you have collected, pressed and mounted specimens. Those are attractive tree identification aids. You need to protect them from damage that might result from being scuffed, crushed or bent. Follow these suggestions. You may wish to purchase acetate or cellophane sheet protectors for notebook size or 8l/2 x 11 inch sheets. Usually two mounts can be turned back to back and still place them in one cover. You may use a plastic kitchen wrap to cover the mount but it is not quite as good. The wrap can be taped down on the back if it is not the kind that will stick to the card. 

A stiff-backed 3-ring notebook cover gives good protection against bending and crushing. Flexible 3-ring covers are not as good as the stiff ones. Mounts may be bound with string, leather thongs or metal rings. If covers are made only of heavy paper or thin cardboard, such binding offers little protection.