Monday 18 June 2018

Eyebright Handbook launched at NHM London

Fred (on left) & Chris with copies of the Handbook
Image: Jonathan Mitchley
Today saw the culmination of six years of hard work, as the latest BSBI Handbook Eyebrights of Britain and Ireland was launched at the Natural History Museum, London

Authors Chris Metherell (who wrote the text) and Fred Rumsey (who focused on the illustrations) welcomed their guests at noon on Eyebright Day! 

Those guests included some very well-known and highly respected names in botany, including Prof Mick Crawley, Emeritus Professor of Plant Ecology at Imperial College, London, and a BSBI trustee; John Swindells, President of the Wild Flower Society and a BSBI Council member; Squadron Leader Martin Godfrey, President of the British Bryological Society and another member of BSBI Council; Dr Jonathan Mitchley, Associate Professor in Field Botany at Univ. Reading; and Dr Helena Crouch, joint County Recorder for North Somerset and Secretary to BSBI Council

Botanists at the launch examine herbarium 
sheets & drawings for the Handbook
Image: Jonathan Mitchley
Also present were some of the next generation of top botanists: Alex Twyford, NERC Research Fellow at Univ. Edinburgh and Max Brown, who is currently doing a PhD at Univ. Edinburgh on British Euphrasia

And we were delighted that designer Helen Baker of LTD Design Consultants was able to come along - thanks to Helen, the new Handbook is as attractive as it is useful!   

The programme kicked off with a short welcome address by Dr Sandra Knapp, Head of the Algae, Fungi and Plants Division at the Natural History Museum.

Chris & Martin examine one of the oldest 
eyebright specimens in the NHM collection
Image: Alex Twyford
Then there was a presentation 'After the Handbook: what's happening next in Euphrasia research'. 

After lunch, there was a workshop in the Angela Marmont Centre and a herbarium tour, offering attendees a chance to see Euphrasia type specimens held in the world-famous British & Irish herbarium

Everyone was delighted to have a chance to look as well at some of the earliest British Euphrasia specimens held in the Historical Collections Room. 

Sandy Knapp shares a joke with the Euphrasiologists
Image: Jonathan Mitchley 
Fred informed the attendees that the possible E. pseudokerneri collected by Buddle [who died in 1715] would, if confirmed, push the first date for this species back by 120 years compared to the date given in David Pearman's The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland

People also enjoyed seeing some of the hybrids collected during BSBI-funded research trips for the Handbook, including the ‘new to science’ E. pseudokerneri x arcticaFred had brought in his preparatory sketches for the Handbook and he also offered attendees a chance to see a display on the little known Section Atlanticae Azorean endemics, some of the world’s most threatened eyebrights.

Kevin & David trial the Handbook on Colonsay
Image: Pete Stroh
The celebrations for Eyebright Day extended beyond the Natural History Museum - botanists across Britain and Ireland took part via social media! 

Chris had visited herbaria across Britain and Ireland during the research process for the Handbook and so today herbarium curators in locations such as Cardiff, Liverpool and RHS Wisley tweeted photographs of some of the herbarium specimens Chris had examined while preparing the keys for the Handbook.

Botanists also took to social media to share photographs of eyebrights from locations extending across the whole of BSBI's range - from Fair Isle, Shetland to the Isle of Wight, from The Burren to Northumberland, from Co. Mayo to the Gower peninsula to Warwickshire... one Canadian botanist even tweeted a photo of E. wettsteinii from Nunavut!

Eyebright specimens held in
 the herbarium at Cardiff

Image courtesy of 
National Museum, Cardiff
Meanwhile, up on the Isle of Colonsay, BSBI Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker and former BSBI President David Pearman were trying out the Handbook on some Hebridean eyebrights.

Check out the #EyebrightDay hashtag on Twitter to see the many photographs and comments shared during the day! 

So, Eyebright Day was a resounding success: thanks go to the Natural History Museum for hosting the launch, to all the guests who travelled to London for the day, to all the botanists and herbarium curators across Britain and Ireland who took part via social media and of course to Fred and Chris themselves. 

If you'd like to get your hands on the new Eyebrights Handbook, you can order a copy now from Summerfield Books

Scroll down to see some sample pages (and to admire the beautiful design work by LTD Design Consultants!).

Use the Comments box below to let us know how you get on using the new Handbook in the field. We think you will find eyebright identification, notoriously one of British and Irish botany's biggest challenges, much less daunting than ever before, thanks to Chris and Fred and their wonderful new BSBI Handbook!

Front cover and sample pages
Image courtesy of LTD Design Consultants

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