Bruce Langridge, Head of Interpretation at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, has been in touch, asking if we would distribute the link to his recent blog post on the NBGW website. Always interested in what is going on over there so here is the link :
Wildflower Highlights – Eyebright
You may recall that last year CMG members had the chance to collect green hay from the wonderful meadows at Waun Las National Nature Reserve. Bruces’ article looks at Eyebright (a useful and pretty plant) which has benefitted from the management regime of strategic grazing and hay cutting (including the transfer of green hay from species rich areas).
This year there are new plans afoot at NBGW to collect seed from the eyebright and make it available for sale (along with other wild flower seed). More on this via the link.
PS – please keep looking for glow worms – we have had a few records coming in which is wonderful but the more data available the better.
One species I’ve been looking for! I believe they are sedge-specialists …..
Thanks for this excellent piece, Bruce, with some great detail. I can confirm that collecting eyebright seed manually is certainly feasible and worthwhile if a little laborious. I started doing this maybe 5 year sago, and it’s so exciting to find when the first plants have appeared on your own patch the following year, after just scattering the seeds into a small developing wildflower hay meadow. We’ve never even bothered to scarify, just scattering onto the aftermath regrowth after the hay has been cut and removed.
Each year I look for the lengthening, and sometimes multi, stems as they start to brown at the base – there are nearly always still open flowers at the top of the stem. But if you strip up from the base, you’ll get lots of tiny seeds/seed capsules from each stem, even if you end up pulling the plant from the soil, which quite often seems to happen. However as you mention it’s an annual so will die at the end of the year anyway. You can continue to harvest the seed quite late in the season, and once you’ve got your eye in ( sorry!) it’s quite easy to spot, and your volunteers will probably see lots of other interesting things in the meadow whilst doing this work. This year we must have thousands of plants, now distributed quite widely, and we’re almost at a point where i shan’t bother any more with manual collection, other than to introduce it to other fields. Simply hay cutting and turning will keep up the seed distribution around the field. It’s such a pretty background plant in a meadow which you appreciate more as the sward thins over time, and the subtle range of flower colours seem to perfectly complement all the jazzier meadow flowers.
Fabulous advice Julian. My eyesight is pretty poor so I was rather pensive about seeing eyebright once they’d gone to seed. But this year, there have been so many, and I’ve been making notes where they are so that I know where to look. I didn’t think that there would still be flowers out on the top of the stem. On the advice of my colleague Dr.Kevin McGinn, who runs the Welsh Seed Bank, we’re collecting 30% of what we see. Hard to be precise I know but I expect when you collect you spill lots of seed anyway.
First seed collecting day tomorrow.