Pressing Fall Leaves

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Do you know how to preserve all of the leaves that are falling these days? If you have a budding naturalist, create pressed leaves that will last for the ages.

What do you need? Well, an old book will do if you want to be low tech about things. Choose leaves that are flat and relatively dry. If they are not dry, they will bleed through your leaf press or cause mold on your books. Collect leaves in the afternoon when the morning dew has evaporated from the leaves. Place the leaves between two pieces of thick paper and then place this in the middle of a book. Put a larger book on top of the leaves and wait for a week. Remove the leaves with their stems, since they are now dry and delicate.

To make a proper leaf press, use a sheet of plywood. Divide it into two pieces. The pieces should be large enough that they are larger than any leaf you need to accommodate. Cut out some pieces of cardboard and newspaper that fit in the press. The corrugated cardboard provides cushioning and the newspaper provides material where you can place the leaves.

You can tighten the press together with two bungee cords, one going from top to bottom and one from side to side. You can also tighter it by drilling a hole for a bolt, washer, and wing nut on each corner of the press. By screwing the nuts tight, you have a press that can tighten.

Once you have pressed your leaves, they make a wonderful addition to your child’s naturalist book. Real leaves are a good way of identifying trees, and they’re much more vivid than a simple picture of a leaf. Ask your child to look at the overall leaf structure and trace the leaf. If it is lobed, how many lobes does it have? How many cuts does each lobe have? What are the color variations in leaves of this species? The size variations?

By taking a close look at a pressed leaf and creating a leaf identification book, your child can learn a lot about the classification of plants.