Backyard Biology

Nature stories from my backyard and beyond

Nature Activities

Preserving Leaves

Sunday, October 3, 2010

When I was a child some 50 years ago, everyone I know made a leaf collection in the fall.  The method was simple.  Place a leaf between two pieces of wax paper.  Place this on a newspaper and cover with more newspaper.  Iron the newspaper.  The heat from the iron would melt the wax of the wax paper and the two pieces of wax paper – with the leaf in between – would stick together.  Your leaf would be preserved in between the wax paper.


So I thought I would recreate this activity from my childhood and make a leaf collection.  I must say that I was a little disappointed in the result.  sumacWhile the technique did work, it was hard to see the details of the leaf through the wax paper.  So I thought I would try to see if I could improve on the technique.  Here is what I came up with.



  • Leaves – the smaller the leave the better
  • Wax paper
  • Plastic wrap  (like saran wrap)
  • Newspaper
  • Rolling pin
  • Board
  • Scissors



In this activity, he leaf will be placed between a piece of wax paper and plastic wrap.  Since the leaf will not stick to the plastic wrap, it is important to coat the leaf with wax.  This will cause the leaf to stick to the plastic wrap.


  1. Cut the stem off of the leaf you want to preserve. 

  2. Place about 10 pieces of newspaper on a board.
  3. Put a piece of wax paper on the newspaper.
  4. Place your leaf on the wax paper and cover with another piece of wax paper.
  5. Place about 10 pieces of newspaper on top.
  6. Set your iron to a medium temperature and iron the newspaper, pressing down firmly for about 10 seconds. 
  7. Remove the wax papered leaf from the newspaper.  Peel apart the two pieces of wax paper and remove the leaf.  It should have some wax on both its front and back surface.
  8. Repeat this process until you can feel that the surface of the leaf feels waxy.
  9. Now place a new piece of wax paper on the newspaper and place your leaf on the wax paper. 

  10. rolling leavesPlace a piece of plastic wrap on top of the leaf.  Pass your hand over the plastic wrap to smooth it out.  You don’t want any wrinkles or air pockets in the plastic wrap.  You might want to smooth out the plastic wrap with a rolling pin.


  11. Now place more newspaper on top and iron.  Make sure you use a steady pressure and a slow ironing motion.


If it is done right, the plastic wrap on the top of the leaf allows you t see the fine detail of the leaf much better than a covering of wax paper.




If you have identified your leaf, you might want to type a label and press that with your leaf.


Once your leaf is preserved, you can cut around the leaf and tape it on to a window.  It will make an attractive decoration when the sin shines through it.