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ISM Botany
Introduction to Herbaria
About the ISM Herbarium
Illinois Prairie Plants
Illinois Trees
Herbarium Database
ISM System :Leaf Collection Lesson

Creating a Leaf Collection and Classroom Herbarium

photograph of Pawpaw herbarium sheetObjective: Students will be able to identify and categorize leaves they collect from trees outdoors by consulting the Herbarium module's Photo Gallery, the Museum's Forest Module’s tree lists, field guides, and the links to tree identification sites; and be able to discuss how the form of a leaf reflects its adaptation to its environment.

Grades: upper elementary to early high school, adjusting sophistication of labeling and identification.
Time Required: field trip to collect leaves (playground, home, or field trip); pressing in a press or large book with tissue paper for a week; one class period for reading, sorting examples, online sources; taking turns on the computer making labels; one class period to organize and mount samples after pressing.

Museumlink Web site: Forests of Illinois, Present Day, click on each type, then tree list
Behind the Scenes, Botany, Collections
ISM Herbarium Tree Specimens

Other Web sites:
Hillview School, Vernon, British Columbia's web site with tree identification section:
Virginia Tech's outreach web site on forestry; tree identification section: Forsite/Idtree.htm page on Flower and leaf press made from an old phone book:


  • leaves collected on field trip or from neighborhood in plastic bag
    note paper and pencil

  • old phone book, large dictionary or other leaf press

  • paper towels or napkins in which to press leaves

  • white card stock or construction paper

  • white glue

  • word processor printer or copier labels


Early Elementary students will:

  • bring in a tree leaf collected from home or the class will collect from trees on the school grounds and talk about the trees (How do we know this is a tree? What are the parts of a tree?)(Teacher will identify leaves to prepare for discussion.)
  • Participate in a teacher-led class discussion and identify of leaves based on their shapes. (Use aWeb site tree list and tree identification sites' illustrations listed in Web sites)
  • Press the leaves in a large book or press.
    Glue the leaves on a piece of construction paper.

  • Write the name of the tree on each sheet.
  • Exhibit and review the types of trees found nearby that are in their class-room herbarium

Middle School to High School students will:

  • read pertinent information about deciduous forest of Illinois on Museumlink Forests of Illinois web site and other links, noting the format of the Herbarium specimen pages.

  • collect leaves from trees on field trip or from neighborhood with permission of the owner (5 each). Note on paper the original location of each leaf, and how the leaves are attached to the branch (alternate or opposite).

  • press leaves for one week at school between the pages of a leaf press made for the project.

  • (Teacher will choose a few leaves for whole class discussion to summarize leaf identification procedure on web sites and use of vocabulary for students.)

  • use the tree and leaf identification web sites and tree list section of Museumlink Forest site to identify their leaves and write down their characteristics.

  • type up the descriptions of the identification on a word processor and print them on label paper

  • mount each leaf onto card stock with dots of white glue (or use 1/4” non-acid framer’s tape)

  • attach the appropriate label to each herbarium page

  • exhibit the leaf collection for others to see

  • keep the collection as a class herbarium.

Assessment: Students should check their own and others’ work for accuracy of terminology and for completeness. A complete herbarium sheet should have name of leaf, name of person who collected it, location of collection, date of collection, and description of leaf and/or plant.

Illinois Goals and Standards addressed:
• Goal 12: Understand the fundamental concepts, principles, and interconnections of the life, physical, and earth/space sciences.
Standard 12.A: Know and apply concepts that explain how living things function, adapt, and change.
Early Elementary: 12.A.1b: Categorize living organisms using a variety of observable features.
Middle/Junior High: 12.A.3c: Compare and contrast how different forms and structures reflect different functions.

Sample Herbarium Label

Name of Tree: Sweet Gum
Name of Collector: Amy Smith
Location collected: 301. S. Main St., Alton,Illinois
Date: Sept. 30, 2000
Characteristics of leaf: alternate, simple, star-shaped, toothed (serrate)
Herbarium Specimen Number __________

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