Euphrasia officinalis (Tartary Eyebright)

Plant Info
Also known as: European Eyebright
Family:Orobanchaceae (Broomrape)
Life cycle:annual
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed rocky or gravelly soil; inland forest roads, ATV trails, utility rights of way
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:3 to 14 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] The small, irregular flowers are ¼ to 1/3 inch long with a 3-lobed lower petal and a 2-lobed or notched petal above. Color is pale bluish white to deeper lavender, with prominent darker veins on the hood and lower lobes, and a bright yellow spot on the lower lip. Flower cluster opens progressively in a short spike at the tip of stems and branches, each flower attended by a leaf-like bract. Both the calyx and bracts are mostly hairless.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are opposite, egg shaped to nearly round, 1/5 to 2/3 inch long, with 3 to 5 sharply pointed teeth on each side, stalkless. Both surfaces are hairless except for a few scattered hairs along veins on the underside. Stems are branched or unbranched, covered with short hairs throughout. Both stems and leaves are typically dark green, sometimes with a reddish tinge.


The Eyebrights make up a complex of circumboreal species, described into hundreds of subspecies of which only a few are readily distinguishable. Euphrasia officinalis  (which may be a synonym for Euprhasia stricta, Drug Eyebright), is recognized to represent a number of purported European introductions into the New World. Within recent years it has spread rapidly throughout the Arrowhead region along forest roads and recreation trails - spread by the human penchant for motorized travel. It puts at risk Minnesota's native Hudson Bay Eyebright (Euprasia hudsoniana) by encroaching upon its narrow habitat niche along Lake Superior's north shore, and by its potential for hybridization that would snuff out our native's unique evolutionary genotype. The two species look essentially identical to the casual observer, however E. hudsoniana has hairy leaves where E. officinalis are mostly hairless. Also any populations observed away from Lake Superior's rocky coastline are certain to be the foreign species. Finally, what's in a name? Euphrasia as a whole is not well defined or described, and according to the DNR, the genus is under review at Flora of North America. What is currently recognized as E. officinalis in Minnesota may well get a name change in the future, as this name seems to be out of favor with most references.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken along an ATV trail in Superior National Forest, and at Silver Bay's public boat ramp in Lake County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jeffrey - Round Island Lake
on: 2015-09-03 19:26:50

I found this species at Round Island Lake and my organization's section house west of Isabella, in the Superior National Forest area. I will try and mark them from now on with GLEDN, though right now GLEDN is crashing since the recent update.

Posted by: Betty Z - Silver Bay
on: 2017-07-19 08:46:53

I saw a few of these at Sychar Lutheran Church, several patches on the upper end of Edison Blvd, and a few patches on Marks Drive by the apartments. July 19, 2017

Posted by: Marilyn Lee - Big Falls area
on: 2019-09-02 08:14:21

I found a lot of these growing along a trail on my property in northern Minnesota...Koochiching county.

Posted by: Kristen K Anderson - Bigfork
on: 2021-09-16 13:53:14

I just found this plant blooming in a small patch on an OHV trail near our property between Bigfork and Marcell.

Posted by: Mike Saunders - Lake George
on: 2022-07-09 21:26:26

Found along the North Country Trail, south of Lake George.

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