How to preserve a green leaf collection

Updated November 21, 2016

Green leaf collections are helpful in learning to identify plant species. Collect leaves from plants native to your area and preserve them in a labelled guide for personal use. Leaves are best collected in late spring or early summer at the beginning of their growing season. Use reference books and Internet searches or talk to a local forester to correctly identify the species of plant the leaves came from. Show off your hard work by displaying your leaf collection in your home.

Collect green leaves from the branches of trees. Collect leaves in the morning hours once the dew has dried. Choose leaves that are the same size and shape as most of the leaves on the tree. Find healthy, undamaged leaves. Pick the entire leaf, including the stem. Keep your harvested leaves in a plastic bag out of the sun. Label the harvested leaves if possible at the time of picking.

Lay a 2-by-2-foot piece of cardboard on a flat surface. Cover the cardboard with two to three layers of newspaper. Arrange your leaves on the newspaper so they are lying flat in their natural position. Leaves should not touch. Cover the leaves with a layer of blotting paper. Blotting paper can be found at craft stores. Place two to three sheets of newspaper over the blotting paper. Cover the newspaper with a second piece of cardboard of the same size. Create additional layers if needed to fit all leaves.

Place the cardboard press on a plywood board. Place a second plywood board on top of the press. Make sure the boards are large enough to cover the entire press. Stack heavy books or breeze blocks on top of the plywood. Let your press sit for 10 to 14 days to allow your leaves to dry.

Remove the books or breeze blocks, plywood layer and cardboard. Lift the newspaper and blotter paper carefully. Touch the leaves to test for moisture. If the leaves are still wet, replace the blotter paper with a fresh piece and replace all layers. Allow the press to sit for an additional seven days.

Remove your dried leaves from the press. Place the dried leaves between two pieces of waxed paper and cover with a dish towel. Run a warm, dry iron over the towel for three to five minutes to melt the layers of waxed paper together. Remove the towel and cut the excess waxed paper from around the leaf. Leave a 1/2 inch border of paper around the leaf to ensure that it remains sealed. Place your preserved leaf collection in a box or photo album and store it in a dry area that is out of direct sunlight .


Do not collect leaves from private property or yards without obtaining permission.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic bags
  • 2 pieces, 24-by-24-inch cardboard
  • Newspaper
  • Blotter paper
  • 2 plywood boards
  • Heavy books or breeze blocks
  • Waxed paper
  • Dish towel
  • Iron
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