Building a Tree Leaf and Plant Press

Preserving a Tree Leaf for Exibiton and Study

Leaf Press
Leaf Press.

Way back in the "dark ages" when I was taking tree identification in college, I pressed hundreds of leaves for further study. Even today, you can't beat using a real, preserved leaf to assist you in tree identification. A properly pressed leaf highlights its structure(s) and provides you with a three-dimensional leaf. Collecting the leaf aids you in the initial identification and gives you a self-made field guide for future help.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 2 to 4 hours (including purchasing materials)

Here's How

  1. Cut a 24" X 24" plywood square in half to make the top and bottom sections of the 12" X 24" press. Place them on top of each other with edges even (c-clamps or bar clamps can be used to keep the wood in position).
  2. At each corner of the top and bottom pieces of plywood, measure in 1 1/2" from sides, 2" from top and mark with a pencil. Using drill bit the same size as your bolts, drill a hole through both pieces at each mark.
  3. Insert round-headed bolts up through each hole in every corner of both the top and bottom portions of the plywood press. Make sure the hole is small enough to accommodate the bolt but stops at the head. Add a washer and wingnut to each bolt. You now have a press with adjustable tension.
  4. Remove winged bolt nuts, washers and the top portion of the plywood press leaving the bottom portion of the press and four bolts standing upright. It is from this "open" position that you load the press with any new leaves.
  5. Cut two cardboard pieces to fit between the press but not extend beyond the top, bottom or sides of the plywood press and to fit between the bolts. This cardboard is to go between the wood press' top and bottom and the pressed material. Collect tabloid sized newspaper.
  6. To use: place leaves between double or triple sheets of newspaper, place newspaper between the pieces of cardboard. "Close" the press by repositioning the top plywood portion over bolts, attach washers, screw on wing nuts and tighten.


  1. Find a leaf on a tree you either know or would like to identify. Collect the leaf or several leaves that most represent an average looking leaf of the tree species. Use an old magazine as a temporary field press.
  2. Identify and label each specimen as soon as you collect it as identification is much easier when you can see the entire tree rather than just a few leaves. Remember to take your field guide along.
  3. You should not have to pay more than $10 for the material to build this leaf press. You can purchase presses for about $40.

What You Need:

  • 2' X 2' sheet of 1/2" plywood
  • Four 3" round-headed bolts with washers and wing nuts
  • Circular saw, scissors and drill
  • Cardboard and newspaper
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Your Citation
Nix, Steve. "Building a Tree Leaf and Plant Press." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nix, Steve. (2020, August 26). Building a Tree Leaf and Plant Press. Retrieved from Nix, Steve. "Building a Tree Leaf and Plant Press." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).