How to use a hand-lens

For botanical purposes, a hand lens works much better than a magnifying glass. It will not only make it easier to identify plants but you’ll also be able to see the beautiful, small structures on a plant which are not easily visible to the naked eye.

A hand lens is easily obtainable on the internet (try Summerfield Books). Start with one with x10 magnification, and expect to spend £10–£20.

Hand lenses are not used in the same way as a traditional magnifying glass but are held close to the eye. Here’s how to do it:

1. If you are right-handed, hold the lens in your right hand as close as you can to your right eye (and vice versa for left-handers). If you wear glasses, you can take them off or not – whatever is the most comfortable.

2. Hold your specimen between the thumb and forefinger of your other hand and bring it very close to the lens until it comes into sharp focus. Don’t move the lens.

3. Try at all times to have contact between the hand holding the lens and your cheek, and also between your left hand and your right hand. This gives you maximum control and allows you to keep specimen and lens steady. With practice this will become easier and easier and you’ll find you can do it without shutting your other eye.

4. Now wonder at the marvels of wild plants such as shimmering glands on hairs and pollen grains on an anther.