Euphrasia ostenfeldii

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaScrophulariaceaeEuphrasiaEuphrasia ostenfeldii


This annual occurs in sparsely vegetated areas in very well-drained, exposed habitats, including dry limestone rock ledges, eroding sea-cliffs, fine-gravel screes, bare serpentine debris and sandy coastal turf. 0-760 m (Cul Mor, W. Ross, and Helvellyn, Cumberland).



World Distribution

Oceanic Boreo-arctic Montane element.

Broad Habitats

Inland rock (quarries, cliffs, screes)

Light (Ellenberg): 9

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 5

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 2.8

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 12.2

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1694

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: 85

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 1

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Euphrasia ostenfeldii (Pugsley) Yeo

Status: scarce



This is a plant of exposed and very well drained habitats, usually with very limited vascular plant cover. It occurs in such habitats as rather dry limestone rock-ledges, eroding edges of sea-cliffs, fine gravel screes and, rarely, sandy coastal turf. In Shetland, it is of occasional occurrence in thin turf on sea cliffs, but it is particularly characteristic of almost bare serpentine debris on Fetlar and Unst. It grows from sea level in North Scotland to over 600 metres on Fraochaidh, and over 760 metres on Cul Mor. It is probably always found above 300 metres in England and Wales. 

It 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. In open rock debris, small plants often occur in thin moss carpets in the apparent absence of other vascular plants and appear not to be host-established. Flowering commences in mid-summer and even very small plants normally produce some seed.

E. ostenfeldii was grouped with an assortment of other hairy taxa and hybrids under ‘E. curia’ until given separate recognition by Yeo (1971). It continues to be confused with E. marshallii and E. rotundifolia, the position being well stated by Scott & Palmer (1987). In North Scotland, a number of coastal populations are hybridised to varying extents with E. foulaensis. As an often inconspicuous member of a highly critical genus, it is also substantially under-recorded. Against this background of taxonomic confusion, it is difficult to recognise any changes in distribution, but it is likely to have suffered only localised habitat loss. There is a lack of recent critical fieldwork in some areas.

It is confined to Britain, the Faeroes and Iceland. In the Faeroes it is locally frequent and better differentiated taxonomically than in Britain.

Populations in Snowdonia were formerly given separate recognition as E. curia var. rupestris. They are matched by an old collection from Teesdale and by certain Lake District material and may merit subspecific status.



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

Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.