Beckler's Botanical Bounty Botanic Art Plants Travels

Collecting our plants in Menindee

One of the delights of the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project is going out into the field to find our plants. The habitat here, in the arid areas of outback New South Wales, always looks so desolate. Driving along in the car all you see are salt bushes, Sennas and sometimes the white bobbing heads of daisies. 

As soon as you step a few metres away from the car you see a different world. Tucked away are little plants. Some are pretty like the blue wahlenbergias, some are stunning like the patches of Sturt Desert Pea. There can be swathes of purple swainsonia or poached egg daisies. 

There are many that you wouldn’t look twice at, or think they may be weeds, only to find out that they are little treasures. Believe it or not, this little one, nestled in the takeaway coffee cup, is actually a daisy.

So looking takes time. We wander around, with our heads down, admiring, wondering and identifying.

Then we take samples so that we can identifying the plants correctly in the hall. (We have permission to collect, and we collect according to strict herbarium guidelines, including only taking 10% of the population in the local environ.)

Beckler's Botanical Bounty Botanic Art

Collecting a plant specimen

Despite me interrupting myself with posts about books and flowers, I am following a thread of the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project. Have a look here to see what this project is and here and here to find out about plant identification.

After the plant has been accurately identified it needs to be collected, labelled and pressed. (It is illegal to pick wildflowers in Australia. We have a permit that allows us to do so.)

Keep in mind that you can only collect a small percentage of the plants in the area. We needed 4 specimens — a maximum of 5% of all of that species around. If it was a specimen from tree or bush it could only be 5% of that plant.

In the field
In the field
Undoing the press
Undoing the press

IMG_3016Tabloid-size newspaper is laid so that one sheet is inside the other and so the writing is upside down. The scientific reason for doing this? So you wont be distracted by reading the articles!


If the specimen is too long it is bent, not cut. To help with identification it is necessary to include as many different parts of the plant as possible, including the root.

Attaching the tag
Attaching the tag

A tag, which includes the label number and plant name, is attached to the plant. This helps to keep track of the specimens. A collector will have many in the press by the end of the trip.

Folding the paper over the specimen -- not easy to do on windy days!
Folding the paper over the specimen — not easy to do on windy days!


The name of the specimen is written on the end of the newspaper. It is another way to help keep track of the specimens. As well it saves having to open each one when looking for a particular specimen.

Firmly tying up the press.
Firmly tying up the press.

This process had to be repeated for 4 specimens of the plant. One will go to the National Herbarium of Victoria in Melbourne, as that is where Beckler’s specimens are. We are collecting in New South Wales, so, as a courtesy, one will go to the Herbarium of New South Wales in Sydney. One is for our own collection. Then there is the specimen we use for the painting.


Lastly, and very importantly, the label needs to be filled in. On this pad is recorded as much detail as possible about where the plant was collected. What is the habitat like? The soil type? Are there weeds about? Is it prolific? Under which trees? GPS co-ordinates will help future collectors know where to begin to look.