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Eyebrights – so hard to ID?

A notoriously difficult plant group for the field botanist is the Eyebrights (Euphrasia – previously placed in the Scrophulariaceae now in the Orobanchaceae family).

Eyebrights are lovely grassland and heathland plants with little zygomorphic flowers, bright white with a central yellow blotch and purple veins (hence Eye-bright).

With approximately 22 species and 70  (yes seventy!) hybrids Euphrasia ID is eXtreme botany to be sure!

But recently, Euphrasia taxonomy has received a shot in the arm from Chris Metherell (aka @EyebrightChris) BSBI (Vice County Recorder for North Northumberland) who has been travelling from herbarium to herbarium across the UK, checking material for his forthcoming BSBI Euphrasia handbook.

As the publication data approaches (early 2016 we hope) Chris has been holding Eyebright workshops including two at the University of Reading Herbarium this week.

Chris’s top tips for Euphrasia ID are to count the number of branches and check out the flower at the lowest node.

Other top tips include, of course, pre-order your copy of the the forthcoming BSBI Euphrasia handbook and, definately, definately, attend one of Chris’s Eyebright workshops, more coming next year!

Dr M’s slightly more low-brow contribution to the otherwise learned proceedings, was these Euphrasioid lyrics which he sang to the chorus of a well known tune:

Eyebrights by Dr M

Eyebrights,
So tough to ID,
Eyebrights,
How can you key out?
How can the plant with long glandular hairs
Suddenly key out so wrong?
Eye – (not so) – brights! 

Eyebrights,
Were tough to ID,
Eyebrights,
Were hard to key out,
But after the class with @EyebrightChris
Suddenly all goes so right!
Eyeb-right-s! 

Euphrasia sp. (An Eyebright)

 

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