NMM – DRAFT – Botanical Specimen books

Make Your Own Plant Specimen Book

This activity is inspired by women in history who studied natural history, and especially botany – the study of plants. 

From Jeanne Baret, who disguised herself as a man to explore the world, to Queen Charlotte who studied botany and botanical illustration, to Henrietta Clive, who organised her own collections in India, these women looked closely at their surroundings and shared their findings with others.  Now it’s your turn!  

In this activity, you will collect specimens from your neighbourhood and turn them into a book.

What is a specimen?  A specimen is a single example of a plant, animal or mineral.  It is often used for scientific study or display.  

For this activity, you will need:

  • 1 sheet of A4 paper – any paper will do, thicker paper is a bit better!
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Stamp pad
  • Scrap paper to make a mess

Go for a walk and collect leaves from different plants. 

They can be all different shapes and sizes. 

You can also do this in your garden, at the park, or near your school.  Think about where you collect your specimens, if they come from a tree, bush or plant, and if you know any of their names. 


Step 1: Make your specimen book.

Fold a sheet of paper into eighths.

Use scissors to cut along the long fold.

You now have a specimen book with 8 pages!

Step 2:  Print your specimens.

Press your leaves into the stamp pad, and print them onto the pages of your book. 

TOP TIP:  Place your leaves on a piece of scrap paper.  Turn the stamp pad upside down, and press the ink onto the leaves! 

Step 3: Describe your discovery.

Once all your prints are dry, use pencils, pens and markers to write about each specimen.

You can describe where it was found, high or low, in a tree, bush, or field, what it was near.  If you know the name of the plant, you can write that down, too. 

Did you know?

You can make a plant specimen book without leaving your home! 
Here is an example of a plant specimen book made with vegetables from the fridge.  Ask a grown up to help with any chopping or slicing.