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Suppose I spend a day in a forest, collecting different kinds of leaves, which I would like to analyze under a compound microscope. Now, obviously, measures should be taken to preserve the leaves some how. What would be the appropriate procedure? It seems (based on browsing the web..) that refrigeration could be one option. Is it scientific (used in published papers)?

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the aim of the analysis and what type of traits/features do you want to study? $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Feb 6 '15 at 18:07
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You may want to see:

Mark W. Chase, Harold H. Hills; Taxon, Vol. 40, No. 2, 1991, pp. 215-220: 'Silica Gel: An Ideal Material for Field Preservation of Leaf Samples for DNA Studies'

Summarized, the process would be the following:

  • Place the leaves inside ziplock plastic bags;
  • Add ten times (minium) the weight of the leaves in silica gel;
  • After 12 hours (after which the degradation of the biological material is more likely), check the leaves by bending them: if they break cleanly, the leaf is dry;
  • Store in the ziplock bag, inside a box with an hermetic lid;
  • Refrigerate (if possible).

Note: Freezing by submersion in liquid nitrogen is also a viable approach, yet might be less practical

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  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking about the same thing with regard to DNA (have used it myself previously), but it sounds like the poster wants to analyse morphology. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Feb 7 '15 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ This method (although I haven't ever used it, or seen it in use) seems to preserve the shape and physical features of the leaf, essentially "freezing" the leaf. In fact, a quick search for images will show that the biological material is kept more or less intact. $\endgroup$ – wkwkwkwk1 Feb 7 '15 at 22:35
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Placing the leaves in wax paper and under the pressure of several books would be beneficial (in terms of a short term preservation).

This method may not be suitable for field preservation, due to the bulky nature of books and other weights, although it might be suitable if using an alternate method of pressure.

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