Monday, 3 August 2015

Hunting Eyebrights in the West Country

Helena and Chris look at Eyebrights in Somerset
Image: F. Rumsey
Chris Metherell has been busy again this summer with a final season of fieldwork towards the new Euphrasia (Eyebright) Handbook, This follows a winter running training sessions in herbaria across the country and building up the Euphrasia Study Group. And being our General Secretary, an honorary position involving large amounts of unpaid work! 

Euphrasia vigursii
Image: F. Rumsey
Chris is currently on Shetland (at his own expense), looking at Eyebrights and going out recording with the Atlas 2020 team, including Ian Denholm and Lynne Farrell, but he sent this report through before he left: 

"Last month, Fred Rumsey and I spent four days in the West Country (Somerset, Devon and Cornwall) on a BSBI Publications Committee grant to finish off work towards the BSBI Euphrasia Handbook and had some money left over to have a couple of days in North Wales so that Fred could photograph and draw the last plant he needed for the illustrations – Euphrasia cambrica.

I'm pleased to say that we managed to find all our target species, and most of the hybrids we hoped we might see. 
E.vigursii x triquetra
Image: F. Rumsey 
In the West Country we had Helena Crouch (County Recorder for North Somerset VC6) with us, who proved to be an invaluable asset as well as being another pair of eyes. 

Our main target here was E. vigursii which although we found at several sites appeared to have vanished from many more and to be in danger of hybridising out at others. Or perhaps it was just a dry summer?

It is however a particularly beautiful plant, perhaps only being surpassed by its hybrid with E. tetraquetra which is fairly common along the north coast of Cornwall around St Agnes Head. 

Helena & Chris on cliff with Eyebrights
Image: F. Rumsey
However perhaps the best moment of the trip happened on the final evening, when, after a somewhat frustrating day chasing down sites where Euphrasia no longer appeared to exist, we visited the cliffs at Branscombe, Devon. 

A warm summer's evening on chalk cliffs with E. pseudokerneri (and many other spectacular plants crowded into a realatively small area, including E. pseudokerneri x tetraquetra just for good measure -  a Euphrasiologist's life doesn't get much better!"

Thanks Chris! Part two to follow, in which Chris and Fred head to Snowdonia to meet up with County Recorder Wendy McCarthy in pursuit of the Welsh Eyebright Euphrasia cambrica and the final illustration for the Euphrasia Handbook.