Euphrasia officinalis – Eyebright
Eyebright is an attractive little plant with small white bright-eyed flowers. It is particularly noticeable when growing in profusion amongst the plants in old grassland as an uplifting constellation of small flowers. Eyebrights are an extremely variable and botanically difficult group of species and subspecies. The seed we offer is (probably!) Euphrasia nemorosa: the commonest eyebright in England and Wales. Its flowers, like all eyebrights, carry a yellow blotch on the lower lip and are often tinged purple. In many respects eyebright is like a smaller cousin to yellow rattle as it shares many characteristics including being hemi-parasitic on other grassland plants.
|Type||Seeds per gram||Origin||Ordering|
|Grassland annual||6000||Carmarthenshire||Order this species|
Eyebright is an annual hemiparasite of low fertility grasslands particularly dry habitats on calcareous soils including meadows, roadsides and lightly grazed pastures.
Eyebright plant forms vary considerably in response to habitat. The seed we offer was collected from a plant population growing in a Cumbrian meadow and so as a consequence is a relatively robust type.
Eyebright, like its larger cousin yellow rattle, parasitizes and draws nutrients from the roots of a wide range of meadow plants including grasses and legumes. Research has however not established to what extent eyebright debilitates its host plants or can change as a result the balance of species in grassland. It would seem that its influence is more subtle than that of the more substantial yellow rattle.
Seed requires a period of chilling to break dormancy and germinates in early spring. There is no persistent seed bank in the soil.
The sowing season for eyebright is between August and December
Eyebright seed must be sown in autumn as it needs a prolonged period of chilling through the winter to trigger its germination the following spring. Eyebright can be sown as part of a mixture, or on its own into established grassland prepared as below.
The most suitable sites for Eyebright will be open grassland of low fertility and with a balanced sward without tall, coarse or vigorous grasses. Prepare for sowing by cutting the grass very short (25mm) or by grazing very hard and open up sites for germination by harrowing or raking. (more on preparation)
Eyebright seed is very fine so low application rates of 0.1g/m2 are probably sufficient to inoculate a site. Broadcast seed on to your prepared surface.
Eyebright is an annual that does not form a persistent seed bank in the soil. As a result it must set seed each year to perpetuate from year to year. To achieve this eyebright must be allowed to grow without disturbance (eg mowing or grazing) from April until August. Mowing and grazing should be resumed to maintain sward structure once the plants have set seed. (more on grassland management)