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Not Signs of Prosperity

Number 7 - February 1993

W.D. Theuerkauf

Botanic gardens in developing countries suffer, even more than other botanic gardens, from a chronic shortage of funds. In such circumstances basic things, like signs or labels, often become a luxury. Here are two ways that signs can be produced economically and without needing much skill.

The three basic ingredients for the production are materials, labour and tools. Although the materials need to be as cheap as possible, it may be worth spending a little more so they are durable. Many botanic gardens of developing countries are in tropical or subtropical areas, and their climate puts an extra strain on the materials used. Labour can be minimised by using simple production techniques which also cut down the tool requirements.

Interpretive Signs of Large and Medium Dimensions

        Materials required:

  • iron sheet (0.6 mm. thickness)
  • strips of wood (6 X 2 - 10 X 4 cm. breadth and thickness according to the size of the board)
  • nails and bolts
  • metal and wood primer
  • paint
  • tools: measuring-tape, hammer, saw, chisel, plate-shears, drill (a hand-drill will do), spanner, paintbrush.
  1. The initial step is to make the wooden frame, which will support the iron sheet. The lengths of wood are cut to the required length and then joined by cutting half of their thickness and then fixing the joints with nails. For boards up to 1.5 X 1 m a simple rectangular frame will be sufficient, for sizes above this additional pieces can be joined for stability and fixed with the same kind of joint.
  2. The frame should be painted with wood primer before the sheet is nailed on to it.
  3. The sheet is treated with metal primer and pierced with a big nail along the edge (since it is difficult to penetrate it with small nails) and then pinned with small nails to the wooden frame.
  4. Four holes are drilled at points through sheet and frame and the whole structure gets a coat of paint.

In tropical countries the climate and termites will deteriorate wooden legs fast. In the long run it is more economical to put the board on iron legs. Angular iron (2.5-5 cm. breadth according to the size of the board) will be sufficient. The legs are drilled, corresponding to the holes in the board, and treated with metal primer. The whole structure is then assembled and fixed with four bolts, Medium sized boards can also be simply hung on stems or horizontal branches of trees.

Small Interpretive Signs or Labels

        Materials required:

  • tin plate
  • aluminium nails or rivets
  • metal primer
  • paint
  • tools: plate shears, hammer, brush.

1. The tin-plate (0.3 mm. thickness) is cut to the required size and pierced with a big nail. Since it needs to be firmer it is better to make piece `b` from iron sheet.

2. Cut to size and join piece `b` with piece `a` using a rivet. We usually use aluminium nails, which are cut short, stuck through the holes and then banged flat on an iron block.

3. The signs are then treated with metal primer and paint. They can either be simply stuck into the ground or nailed to wood or walls.

4. Both kinds of signs are durable, even in tropical conditions. The former we have used for nearly ten years without deterioration. The latter will last for 4-6 years.

The following is an additional thought for the design of the interpretive signs. We invite regular visitors from colleges or nature clubs to write and illustrate boards. A group of bird watchers, for example, was invited to prepare signs of bird species in relation to the flora and the type of forest they inhabit. This has the extra benefit of involving and interesting the artists in the plant world and conservation matters.

Narayana Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary, Alattil, P. O. North Wayanad, Kerala, India