With a passion for flowers, National Tsing Hua University Department of Life Sciences professor Li Chia-wei (李家維) has for the past five years conducted research on color-retention techniques for pressed floral plants.
Li said his interest in the technique had been piqued when he visited a museum in China six years ago.
At the time, Li said he found that the color of vegetable specimens he had purchased in jars did not fade after half a year, prompting him and his students to analyze the chemical contents of the liquid in the jar.
Li and his students later used organic acid to come up with a mixture similar to anthocyanidin, causing orchids soaked in the mixture to retain their original color for more than three years.
After testing and preserving orchids of different kinds and colors, Li and his students were greatly encouraged, and one of his students, Lin Tzu-yang (林子楊), has also sought to use the mixture to preserve specimens of Japanese camellias, chrysanthemums and roses, Li said.
Saying that flower specimens made through flower-pressing techniques — involving pressing, dehydrating, then drying — caused them to lose their beauty, color and natural shape, Lin is now attempting to create flower specimens from entire flowers, with the original colors intact.
Flowers soaked in his special mixture could later be sealed in clear resin, not only preserving the color of the flowers, but also decreasing the chance of the chemicals leaking out.
The technique has been published in Scientific American magazine, Li said, adding that the finding has already received a commendation from Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台).
Li said the university has asked him to dry two orchid specimens with his mixture as a gift to Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureates Aaron Ciechanover and Ada Yonath.
Li added that he hoped to establish a flower specimen museum to let others see the beauty of the flowers, preserved for eternity.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer