Euphrasia marshallii

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaScrophulariaceaeEuphrasiaEuphrasia marshallii


An annual of coastal rocks and eroding sea-cliff edges below maritime Calluna vulgaris-Empetrum nigrum heath. Plantago spp., particularly P. maritima, are constant associates and may act as hosts. Lowland.



World Distribution


Broad Habitats

Supralittoral rock (does not include maritime grassland)

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 6

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 3


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 1

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.8

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 12.3

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1334

Life form information

Height (cm): 12

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 39

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Euphrasia marshallii Pugsley

Status: rare?



This is a strictly coastal plant of rocks and eroding sea-cliff edges, often on moderately basic sites, with such species as Carex capillaris, Coeloglossum viride, Gentianella amarella subsp. septentrionalis, Gentianella campestris, Oxytropis halleri and Scilla verna. However, the most characteristic plants are found in rather leached or less basic sites below maritime Calluna-Empetrum heath, with Festuca rubra, Plantago spp. and Thymus polytrichus. It occupies equivalent habitats to E. ostenfeldii further north and E. tetraquetra to the south, growing and hybridising with the latter species on Skye. It is confined to the lowlands. 

E. marshallii is a hemiparasitic annual, presumably germinating in 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. It commonly occurs in very close association with Plantago maritima and it has also been observed growing with P. lanceolata in the apparent absence of other vascular plants, P. lanceolata being a generally suitable host for Euphrasia spp. in cultivation.

Taxonomic confusion with other hairy taxa and lack of detailed monitoring make it difficult to assess any changes in distribution. The majority of past records from Orkney and Shetland are suspect, especially those made as "E, marshallii var. pygmaea", which are mostly referable to E. foulaensis x ostenfeldii or to E. ostenfeldii itself. E. marshallii hybridises readily with E. arctica, and since the latter becomes an invasive grassland species in the north, cultivation of cliff tops for hay has led to genetic alterations in adjacent E, marshallii populations. On dunes and limestone cliffs, or where cliffs have been enriched by blown shell sand, E. marshallii is often replaced by its hybrid with E. nemorosa. Impressions suggest that these are serious threats to the species, but most collecting and fieldwork has been done at the most accessible parts of the coastline, where these threats are at their greatest. There are many miles of unsurveyed and apparently suitable cliff habitat away from these influences, E. marshallii is endemic to Britain.

As this species has been recorded in only 15 British 10 km squares since 1970, it qualifies for inclusion in the Red Data Book (Perring & Farrell 1983) under the current criteria. However, it will probably be recorded in more than 15 British 10 km squares when, as seems likely, it is refound in some of its old localities.



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 (57b)
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.