EYEBRIGHT – Euphrasia officianalis: Scrophulariaceae family
The plant: This is a plant which grows in undisturbed grassy areas. There are about thirty or more variants – but to the country walker the differences are of little importance. It is found throughout the country but is best described as locally common. Some types grow up to about 25cm or so – but this plant was only a few centimetres tall. It was photographed in Upper Weardale near the Middlehope Burn above Westgate. The plant is semi-parasitic – it lives on the roots of other plants.
The flowers:These were no more than about 5mm long and looked like little white spots when walking by. However look at the beauty of them when examined close up. They appear on spikes which are also leafy. The flowers can be seen from early Spring to late September: this flower was photographed in early July.
The leaves: Essentially these are oval but with sharply defined teeth.
Names, mythology,uses and folklore: It has a variety of names including fairy flax and peeweets. Milton referred to the use of Eyebright in his poem, Paradise Lost, when the Archangel anointed Adam’s eyes with Euphrasie and Rue, and three drops from the Well of Life, until he could see death and the future of mankind. Its best known use has been for conjunctivitis – but other diseases in which it has been used include rheumatism, gout and bruises. Wordsworth wrote about it but confused the plant with a speedwell!