What’s A Herbarium?

Traditionally a herbarium was a book of collected raw plant material that had been pressed or preserved to aid in research of using plants for medicinal purposes. Usually all parts of the plant were represented including the roots, stems, leaves and fruits. The collector would then annotate the page with identification remarks and findings.

A Modern Herbarium Journal

Herbarium Cover ~ modern herbarium journal - gardenmatter.com

Today an herbarium has evolved to a place where such documentation resides. More of a library or museum with huge data banks of material for education and research. One of the largest Herbaria is the Kew Herbarium located in England with more than 6 millions specimens. Here in the US we have several; the two largest are the New York Botanical Herbarium and in DC the US National Herbarium, each housing around three million specimens.

Herbarium by Amos Eaton - 1830 ~ gardenmatter.com

Herbarium by Amos Eaton – 1830

I have always love beautiful botanical illustrations that show the parts of a particular plants, so I was really interested in learning more about an herbarium.

Lemon Balm Botanical Illustration ~ gardenmatter.com

While researching the topic I came across several references to Emily Dickinson, the famous poet. Apparently Emily at the age of 14 started creating her own herbarium. Currently you can find a complete color digital facsimile at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. I also came across a digital Herbarium at the University of Wisconsin extension. This digital herbarium has images of real northern Wisconsin plants along with their identifying characteristics.


From there it didn’t take long to realize that there are manly catalogs of herbaria which you can view online. The big ones are: Kew Herbarium Catalogue and The C.V. Starr Virtual Herbarium from the New York Botanical Garden.

Make Your Own Modern Herbarium Journal

  • Collect some specimens of flowers including the roots, stems and flowers.
  • Press between phone book pages or newspaper until dry.
  • Mount them in a notebook. I think a sketch pad or watercolor book would work well.
  • Make a label or hand-write the scientific name and common name, the date collected and any other notes about your collection.

Herbarium page with Lady's Mantle ~ gardenmatter.com

I have a few flowers I pressed for other projects from last year so I have already started with Alchemilla mollis, or Lady’s Mantle and I’m looking forward to filling up the book this season.




What's an Herbarium journal? I'll tell you what it is, where it came from and how you can make you own. ~ gardenmatter.com



About Patti Estep

Patti is the creator of Hearth and Vine, a home and garden blog filled with projects to inspire your creative side. She loves crafting, gardening, decorating and entertaining at her home in Pennsylvania. When she is not working on a project at home or searching for treasures at nurseries and thrift stores with her girlfriends, you’ll probably find her with family and friends, at a restaurant, or home party enjoying new and different food adventures.

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  1. Hi Patti,
    I really enjoyed this post – what a great idea to make your own herbarium. I have always loved the old botanical drawings just like you. I have a small collection of pages, with wild flowers, ripped out from an old botanical book. I bought them on e-bay for a small fee. I will frame them and use them as decoration over a sideboard. Thank you for sharing this great tips and interesting history. I pinned it.

    Charlotte – My Green Nook

    • Charlotte,
      So glad to hear you liked this post.
      I love your idea for using the antique wild flower pages.
      Thanks for stopping by and the pin.

  2. I love this idea. I also love vintage botanical illustrations and it would be fun to make my own.

  3. This is a great idea and so pretty.

  4. Hi Patti, I love Herbs too, I used to study them. They are not only beautiful but useful. That is such a lovely Book, and the idea of drying and framing them would be really pretty hanging a potting shed. Love to see what you come up with for the fall.

  5. Hi Patti,

    How did you mount them? Thanks!

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