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Making a Reference Collection of Orchid Flowers

Many taxonomists make a quick reference collection of orchids by dissecting flowers into their constituent parts and sticking them on white unlined index cards so that quick comparisons can be made between taxa and measurements easily taken. The use of cellophane tape or the equivalent is commonplace, but the short life of tape means that after a few years the collection become useless as it discolours and/or peels.

An alternative and longer-lasting solution is to use wallpaper paste incorporating a fungicide. In the U.K. I use Polycell sold in cellophane packets. The paste is mixed thin and liberally applied to one side of the index card. The flower is dissected and then placed in the paste. This is easy with thin-textured flowers, but fleshy flowers may need to be left to wilt a little or even placed momentarily in hot water. The floral parts can be tastefully and usefully arranged and several small flowers of the same taxon placed on a single card. The card can be labelled on the upper or lower side using a good quality pencil; ball-point pens are usually unsuitable because the ink fades with time. The cards are then dried on a sunny windowsill or in a warm oven until the paste is dry and then pressed under a heavy object. Some floras are particularly suitable!

In this way a good reference collection can be formed. Advantages are 1) retention of flower colour, especially in the thinner flowers, 2) speed of preparation, 3) saving of space, and 4) ease of use in the field.

Phillip Cribb, Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, UK.

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Last Updated September 3, 1998.
Copyright The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.