I’m on a mission to tackle Difficult Plant Groups. I’m an experienced botanist, yes, and I’m good at what I do, but to be truly great I need to be able to identify not just the easy plants, not just the hard ones but the really awkward ones as well. Thankfully the BSBI agrees with me and is continuing their programme of training workshops on tricky plants. This year there is a series of workshops on Euphrasia to complement ongoing research and feed into the production of a new Euphrasia identification handbook. Euphrasia are eyebrights and there are about 20 species recorded from the UK. That sounds manageable, right? There are also 71 known hybrid combinations 😦
There are some nice photos of Euphrasia on the Plant Atlas website, but the best way to get started with eyebrights is to look at a wide variety of herbarium specimens. I went to the Euphrasia workshop at the University of Leicester herbarium, which holds specimens from all over the UK and is a great teaching resource. The first stage of learning any difficult plant group is to simply begin to recognise that they don’t, in fact, all look the same. In Euphrasia we look at features such as branching pattern, flower size, leaf shape and hairiness.
The plants above are of modest size, largely unbranched and with flowering happening near the top of the plant. Counting the nodes to find the number of the lowest node with a flower (or capsule) on it is an important ID feature. Through looking at the specimens and talking things through with the tutor and my fellow students, I now feel more equipped to have a go at identifying eyebrights for myself. I’m even looking forward to joining the Euphrasia Study Group and going hunting for eyebrights later this summer 🙂
Thanks to Chris Metherell for leading the workshop, Louise Marsh for organising and the University of Leicester herbarium for hosting.