Wednesday 5 August 2015

Hunting Eyebrights 2: Snowdonia

Euphrasia rivularis
Image: F. Rumsey
Following their successful trip Eyebright hunting in the West Country, Chris and Fred left Helena Crouch, North Somerset County Recorder, behind and headed north to meet up with Wendy McCarthy, County Recorder for Caernarvonshire. Chris takes up the story:

"If the weather was kind to us in Cornwall, it was spectacularly good on the first day of our visit to Wales.

We were joined by Wendy and caught the early train up Snowdon to visit the locus classicus for Euphrasia cambrica – Clogwyn Du'r Arddu. 

And within five minutes of arriving at the site we had found it, all 1.5cm of it, together with much E. ostenfeldii and the hybrid between the two. 

Chris & Wendy in Snowdonia
Image: F. Rumsey
It would be an easy plant to miss however, as one's eye was drawn to the huge numbers of E. rivularis also present with its huge flowers compared to the small size of the plant, like jewels in the grass.

E. cambrica is a truly diminutive plant, rarely more that 1.5cm tall, but quite strongly branched so that it looks just like a tiny bush which has been subjected to extreme bonsai treatment. The flowers are tiny too, usually about 4mm or so, with very small lower lips. 

Apart from its habit is differs only somewhat slightly from E. ostenfeldii and, although we had no trouble in finding it, intermediates between the two species appeared to be even more common. 

Euphrasia cambrica
Image: F. Rumsey
We had plans for the Black Ladders on the following day but Fred and Wendy had to go it alone due of the failure of the clutch on my car, leaving me stranded in the Euphrasia-free zone of Bangor Services".

Don't worry botanists, Chris made it home ok, then headed up to Shetland for a week of Atlas 2020 recording with Ian Denholm and other members of the Euphrasia Study Group, and is now back at home in North Northumberland (where he is County Recorder). 

Let's hope that Chris is hard at work on the Eyebright Handbook, due for publication next year. Some of us can hardly wait for this new addition to the series of BSBI Handbooks!

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