Euphrasia frigida

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaScrophulariaceaeEuphrasiaEuphrasia frigida


An annual of damp or wet, usually rather basic, cliff ledges. It occurs at 200 m on Foula (Shetland), but is usually found above 400 m, reaching 1190 m on Aonach Beag (Westerness).



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Arctic-montane element; also in N. America.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 6

Reaction (Ellenberg): 4

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 1.5

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 11.8

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1981

Life form information

Height (cm): 20

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 118

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 6

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Euphrasia frigida Pugsley

Status: scarce



This is a strictly montane species, occurring on damp to wet, usually rather basic, ledges. It occurs with a variety of other arctic and arctic-alpine species, Oxyria digyna and Rhinanthus minor subsp. borealis perhaps being particularly frequent associates. In such habitats it is usually the only Euphrasia species present, but on wet ground below alpine cliffs or along streamsides, it commonly forms extensive hybrid populations involving E. scottica. It occurs at 200 metres on Foula, but is usually found above 400 metres and ascends to 1100 metres on Am Binnein. 

E. frigida is a hemiparasitic annual, presumably germinating in late spring and attaching to a suitable host when root contact is first made. No information is available on host plants, but it is unlikely to be host specific. Small individuals commonly occur in bare soil or thin, wet moss mats, in the apparent absence of other vascular plants and apparently not host-established. Such plants nevertheless normally mature one or more capsules. Plants may produce their first flowers as low as the second node, presumably increasing the chance of successful seed-set in difficult climatic conditions and allowing efficient allocation of resources in individuals lacking hosts.

This is one of the better-known species of the genus and there appears to be no evidence of population change, nor of any serious foreseeable threat. Lack of post-1970 records from some 10 km squares almost certainly reflects the lack of recent critical recording.

E. frigida is a circumpolar, boreal and arctic species, its distribution including Greenland, northern Europe (south to Belgium and Czechoslovakia), Russia and North America.



A. J. Silverside

PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas Supp (56a)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Rauschert S, Weinert E
1978.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.