Euphrasia subarctica (Northern Eyebright) - photos and description









Patch of many plants


General: Slender annual with small flowers in the leaf axils, single-stemmed to branching towards the top, decumbent to erect. Stems pubescent.

The 4 or 5 locations I've seen this plant, it's been growing on disturbed soil from human development - a grassy parking lot, a sandy roadside, a cabin site. I'm all for protecting rare plant habitat, but it's an interesting philosophical problem with this particular species because it's a weedy colonizer of human development. Each of the locations I've seen it, the plant wouldn't be there if not for human disturbance. How or even why would you protect habitat where it's growing?

Flowers: Flowers white with purple stripes and a yellow throat, flowers single in leaf axils. Flower measured to 8 mm diameter, 7 mm long, lower lip 4 mm in diameter. Lower lip cleft into 3 lobes, each lobe with purple lines.

Leaves:  Leaves mostly alternate, with a few pairs opposite. Leaves are sessile, more or less orbicular with up to 5 prominent teeth per side, leaf measured at 1 cm long by 1 cm wide. Leaves glabrous.

Height: Height listed in Budd's Flora to 20 cm. We've observed plants growing to a height of 25 cm, most plants have been 10 cm or less in height.

Habitat: Disturbed soils in the boreal forest.

Abundance: Rare, ranked as an S3 (as of 2021) by the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre.

Origin: Native.

Synonym: Listed in some of the reference books we use as Euphrasia arctica.

I KNOW: Have been contacted several times that the plant on this page may be an introduced species such as E. nemorosa. When I published this web page, the only Euphrasia listed for Saskatchewan was E. subarctica, and no keys were available in references such as Flora of Alberta to identify multiple Euphrasia species. E. subarctica is still (2023) the only Euphrasia species listed for SK by SKCDC. One of these summers I hope to travel to this spot in the boreal forest and observe again this plant and take some specimens. This is a 5 hour one-way trip.

When and where photographed: Took the above photos July 3rd and August 5th, in a wet ditch beside a sandy road in the boreal forest north of Hudson Bay, about 450 km N of Regina, SK., and August 23rd in a grassy parking area along forest road, Pasquia Provincial Forest about 450 km north of our home in Regina, SK.