By Lam Ho
On Valentine’s Day at 9:30 a.m., Mary Priestley started the day of love by leading a pressed plant mounting workshop. To do this, she showed attendees the plant archives in the Spencer herbarium and gave them plants from the late 60s (most of them collected in North Carolina) to mount. The plants, formerly flatted and placed in manila file folders and stored in the herbarium, were taken out to be mounted.
As the University of Florida herbarium describes it, “Mounting is the process of affixing a dried pressed plant and its label to a sheet of heavy paper. This provides physical support that allows the specimen to be handled and stored with a minimum of damage.”
The event was advertised as the following: “Come spend the morning mounting pressed plants and take home a simple handmade valentine, as well as a guide to mounting pressed plants. Pressed plants are always useful and often quite beautiful. The methods used have been passed down through generations. Meet Mary Priestley in the herbarium on the first floor of Spencer Hall.” Priestley explained that the event (called “Valentine’s Day pressed plant mounting at the Herbarium”) was originally planned to be a mounting workshop, but it inadvertently fell on February 14. To follow the theme of Valentine’s Day, she designed cards with small pressed flowers to create an example of how a pressed plant could make a romantic gesture.
The process includes using Elmer’s glue to place the labels on a clean sheet of paper, then combining equal parts of glue and water to glue the plants to the sheet of paper as well. They had already been pressed, so the Valentine’s Day session was made for keeping the records from four decades ago present through mounting. Unfortunately, some specimens could not be preserved because they had deteriorated so much over the years.
Although only two people arrived at 9:30, four other community members came to Spencer Hall that morning to peacefully mount the plants, often commenting on the interesting locations where they had been found: for example, “Waste place.” Priestley edits and illustrates the Friends of the Herbarium’s newsletter, The Sewanee Plant Press; she has also served as the Tennessee Native Plant Society president and has assisted in writing and editing the TNPS field guide called Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians. In 2011, she authored William’s Wildflowers. To stay updated with the herbariums events, visit https://sewaneeherbarium.wordpress.com.