Eyebright

©Philip Precey

Eyebright

Scientific name: Euphrasia officinalis
Eyebright has small, white flowers with purple veins and yellow centres. It likes short grasslands, from clifftops to heaths, and is one of a number of species and hybrids that are hard to tell apart.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 25cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

May to September

About

Eyebright is a low-growing, annual plant found in all kinds of short grasslands, from the top of cliffs to windswept heaths, wildflower meadows to downlands. There are about 20 species of Eyebright and around 60 hybrids, which are all very similar and difficult to tell apart from each other. Some of these species, such as Chalk Eyebright and Glandular Eyebright, are rare and classified as Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Eyebright is generally semi-parasitic, feeding off the nutrients from the roots of nearby grasses. For this reason, it is a useful plant for keeping vigorous grasses at bay and allowing more delicate wildflowers to thrive.
It flowers between May and September.

How to identify

Eyebright has oval, sharply toothed leaves, and white, violet-like flowers that have purple veins and yellow centres.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

As its common name suggests, Eyebright was used by traditional herbalists for the treatment of different eye disorders. In Greek mythology, the Linnet was the first creature to use Eyebright to clear the sight of its fledglings; it then passed this knowledge on to humans.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland habitats sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. Careful grazing with traditional breeds, hay-cutting at the right time and scrub clearance are just some of the ways these habitats are kept in good condition. By volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you'll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.