Guest blogger: Nicole Richer
My passion for collecting wildflowers came to me when I started participating in a Young Naturalists Club when I was in high school. Our instructors taught us to recognize the plants, know their names and blooming seasons. We dissected the plants to learn about their life cycle by sorting out the different flower parts. We also discovered the role of each part and how they contributed to the life cycle of a living structure. We were also taught how to collect, dry and mount the plants on paper and also how to name and date them with location information. I am sad to say that I can no longer find my first herbarium from these younger years.
Wildflowers are usually taken for granted and often overlooked. When they grow along a building, a lawn or garden, they are often called a ‘weed’. But wildflowers are amazing, beautiful and tough. They grow in the wild and are not intentionally seeded.
As the first spring birds arrive in my yard, especially with the first appearances of the Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) and the American Robin (Turdus migratorius), the Wild Mustard (Sinapis arvensis) and the Wild Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris) are the first to bloom. Year after year, the melted snow supplies enough water for the seeds to sprout and the heat of the sun helps them grow. It’s the beginning of a beautiful parade that begins in May and ends in September with the Canada Goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis) in full bloom. All throughout the warm season, we have the possibility to collect, examine the flowers and keep them in a herbarium.
In 1975, I started a new herbarium which now consists of 148 different plants and specimens are added every year. Collecting flowers can be a great hobby, but there are important things to keep in mind. Never collect from public lands, preserves or protected natural areas, never collect endangered plant species, do not pick a flower if it’s the only one in a particular spot and do not trample neighboring plants. As a naturalist, we want to learn about nature and educate others about its beauty, but we must also be responsible and protect nature for future generations.
The Internet offers many sites where you can learn how to make a wildflower collection of your own. In protected natural areas or for endangered species, you can always take a picture and make a photographic collection.
A Herbarium is very delicate, as the flowers are dry and fragile. So, this Spring, I decided to take a picture of each specimen and printed the picture in a hockey trading size card. I also placed a sticker at the back of the card mentioning the information I need. Now, I can look at my herbarium without damaging the plants.