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Heslop Harrison's Eyebright

Euphrasia heslop-harrisonii

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Mountains, saltmarshes, seaside.

White, 5 petals
Flowers are usually white, measuring 4 to 6mm across. They each have a 3-lobed lower lip.
The fruit is a flat, many-seeded capsule.
The leaves are small, oval and toothed. They are stalkless and appear in opposite pairs along the stem. The basal teeth curve outwards and upwards.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Euphrasia heslop-harrisonii is a species of flowering plant in the family Orobanchaceae. It is native to high-elevation regions of central Europe, including the Alps, Carpathians, and Tatra Mountains. It is a small, perennial herb with hairy stems, oblong leaves, and small, white or pink flowers with purple veins. Euphrasia heslop-harrisonii is closely related to Euphrasia frigida, which is native to western North America. Like other species in the genus Euphrasia, it is sometimes used in traditional medicine as an eye wash to treat eye infections and inflammation. It is also sometimes used to treat respiratory conditions and skin irritation.


Heslop Harrison's Eyebright (Euphrasia heslop-harrisonii) is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the family Orobanchaceae. It is named after the British botanist and ecologist, J.B.S. Heslop Harrison, who is known for his pioneering work in plant ecology. The plant is commonly referred to as Eyebright, and is native to the upland moors and mires of Northern England and Scotland.

Eyebright is a small, herbaceous perennial that grows to a height of 10 to 20 centimeters. The plant has thin, branching stems that are covered in soft hairs and produce leaves that are small and oval in shape. The flowers of Eyebright are small, inconspicuous, and have a yellow or purplish hue. They are produced in tight clusters along the stem, and bloom from July to September.

One of the most notable characteristics of Eyebright is its medicinal properties. The plant has been used for centuries to treat eye-related ailments, and its generic name, Euphrasia, is derived from the Greek word for "gladness," referring to the plant's ability to bring brightness and clarity to the eyes. Eyebright is said to have anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, and has been used to treat conditions such as conjunctivitis, styes, and sore eyes.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Eyebright is also of interest to botanists and ecologists due to its unique ecology. The plant is a hemi-parasite, meaning that it derives some of its nutrients from other plants. In the case of Eyebright, the plant parasitizes the roots of grasses and other herbaceous plants, tapping into their nutrient supply. This relationship has led to the evolution of specialized structures called haustoria, which allow the plant to penetrate the root systems of its hosts.

Despite its relatively small size and modest appearance, Eyebright is a fascinating and important plant species, with a rich history of medicinal use and unique ecological relationships. For those interested in botany, ecology, or natural history, Heslop Harrison's Eyebright is well worth a closer look.

Heslop Harrison's Eyebright is a unique and fascinating plant species that deserves recognition for its important medicinal properties, its unique ecological relationships, and its interesting history. Whether you are a botanist, ecologist, or just someone interested in natural history, Eyebright is a plant that will captivate and inspire you.

In terms of habitat, Eyebright is found in a variety of upland environments, including moors, mires, and heathlands. It thrives in moist, peaty soils and is often found growing in close association with other plant species, including cotton grass, heather, and bilberry. The plant is well-adapted to the harsh conditions of its native environment, with small leaves that reduce water loss, and a dense mat of roots that helps to stabilize the soil and reduce erosion.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Eyebright as a medicinal plant. The plant contains a range of bioactive compounds, including tannins, flavonoids, and terpenoids, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. As a result, Eyebright has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and is still used today as a natural remedy for a variety of conditions.

However, despite its long history of use and its proven effectiveness, Eyebright is still not well-known or widely used outside of traditional medicine. This may be due to the plant's limited distribution and the lack of research into its medicinal properties, as well as the fact that it is not widely cultivated or commercially available.

Eyebright is a remarkable plant species that deserves greater recognition and attention. Its medicinal properties, unique ecology, and important role in traditional medicine make it an important species to study and protect. Whether you are a botanist, herbalist, or just someone interested in natural history, Eyebright is a plant that is well worth exploring.

Despite its limited distribution, Eyebright is considered to be a relatively hardy species, and can be relatively easy to grow in the right conditions. In the wild, the plant prefers moist, peaty soils, and a sunny or partially shaded location. If you are interested in growing Eyebright in your garden, it is important to choose a location that mimics its natural habitat as closely as possible.

In terms of cultivation, Eyebright is often grown from seed, which can be purchased from specialist nurseries or seed suppliers. The seeds should be sown in a well-drained, moisture-retentive soil, and covered with a thin layer of soil or compost. The plants should be spaced around 10-15 cm apart to allow for adequate growth and development. Eyebright can take several years to reach maturity, and may take several seasons to flower.

In addition to its ornamental value, Eyebright is also an important food source for several species of insects, including bees, butterflies, and moths. The small flowers are rich in nectar and provide an important source of food for pollinators, making Eyebright an important species for supporting local ecosystems.

In conclusion, Eyebright is a fascinating and important plant species that is well worth growing and preserving. Whether you are a botanist, gardener, or just someone interested in natural history, Eyebright is a species that will capture your imagination and inspire you. So, consider growing Eyebright in your garden today, and be a part of the efforts to conserve this remarkable and valuable species for future generations.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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