Nature Fun for Kids
How to Collect Wildflowers
Wildflowers can be found almost anywhere you look. They grow in fields and forests, the cracks of sidewalks, along roadsides and even in your backyard. They can provide a delightful spot of color wherever they are found growing. You donít have to live in the country to be able to enjoy wildflowers. Collecting wildflowers is one way you can enjoy their beauty all year round.
Collecting and preserving wildflowers is a fun and inexpensive hobby. You donít need and fancy or expensive equipment but you will need a few basic tools to get you started. You will need a wildflower field guide to help you identify the flowers you find. If you canít buy your own your local library should have one you can check out. Next you will need something to press and dry your flowers with. This is called a flower press and you can buy one or make one yourself. You can even use two big, heavy books in a pinch. A magnifying glass is useful for looking closely at tiny wildflower specimens. Add a pencil and a notebook to your stash of tools and you will have all the equipment you need to get started in a very rewarding hobby.
Now that you have everything you need you are ready to begin. But where will you look and what will you look for? Well like we said before you can find wildflowers just about anywhere. One of the very best places and the easiest place to start looking is your backyard. Donít give up if you live in an apartment or donít have much of a yard you can always go to a local park, take a walk or even an empty lot.
Most people never realize what is growing in their own backyard. As you walk around you yard try looking through fresh eyes. Pay close attention to the plants growing in your yard.. What do you see? If itís spring or summer you probably see Dandelions. I bet you didnít know they were wildflowers did you? You call them weeds! Most weeds are wildflowers in disguise. Wildflowers are all sizes, big and little, so get down and look close to the ground. If you see small, star shaped white flowers growing in every direction you may be looking at Chickweed. Are there tall flowers that remind you of Daisies but are fringed? You have just discovered Daisy Fleabane. In the spring you can find tiny purple Violets nestled next to the remaining snow. Common Plantain has flat leaves at the base and a tall stalk with a ďfuzzyĒ tip. It doesnít even look like a flower but it is. Once you are really looking you will be surprised at what you will find.
Now you are ready to pick your first specimen, a Dandelion. Be sure when picking wildflowers to preserve you get not only the flower but the stem and leaves if possible. This really helps when trying to identify some that look alike. Also it is very important to which flowers are rare and protected where you live. You should never pick these! Collect these wildflowers through the lens of your camera. This is also a good rule of thumb for wildflowers that you only find one or two of in any area
Here is an example of what one boy found in his backyard last year. He was able to collect and dry Ė Dandelions, Violets, Honeysuckle, Periwinkle, Common Plantain, Chickweed (two kinds), Hawksweed, Scarlet Pimpernel, Ground Ivy, Henbit, Daisy Fleabane, Blue Irises as well as several others. And he doesnít live in the country or have a big back yard!
Now you have a few specimens picked and ready to dry. Lay your wildflowers out on the paper in your press in a pleasing manner. Try to arrange them in a way that shows most of the flower. Beside the flower jot down the name of the plant, date and where you found it. Donít depend on your memory for later. Now place another sheet of paper on top and tighten your press. You will need to leave your flowers in the press for about two weeks to thoroughly dry.
When your two weeks are up you are ready to look. You will need some cardstock or heavy paper, glue and some plastic sleeves to slide your finished pages inside of. Carefully remove the top from your press and look between the papers. Your specimens should be dry and slightly brittle. They may also have shrunk some and lost their vibrant colors.
You can now begin you collection. Gently glue your wildflowers onto the heavy paper. Neatly label your wildflower with the name, date and place you found it. You can also include the Latin or scientific name. When your page is filled slip it down inside the plastic sleeve. This will keep the pieces from getting bumped and knocked off when you look at your treasures.
Thatís all there is to it! Itís fun and easy. You are now ready to look further then your yard. You may even want to join a wildflower club or exchange dried wildflowers with people in other states. You may branch out and discover the fun of collecting the seeds and seedpods in the fall and winter. The most wonderful thing about collecting wildflowers is you are never done. Year after year you can add something to your collection. Each new season has you looking forward to finding something different then you did last year.
Learning to recognize and collecting wildflowers is a hobby for the whole family. Whether you are a boy or girl, young or old, it makes no difference. All you need is a desire to learn more about and explore the world of wildflowers