Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Euphrasia bowdeniae (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008bp) [Conservation Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NSW:Euphrasia bowdeniae - profile (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2005ek) [Internet].
NSW:Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines - Euphrasia bowdeniae (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS), 2000o) [Internet].
NSW:Euphrasia bowdeniae Threatened Species Profile (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS), 2000p) [Information Sheet].
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Vulnerable (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013 list)
Scientific name Euphrasia bowdeniae [21521]
Family Scrophulariaceae:Scrophulariales:Magnoliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author W.R.Barker
Infraspecies author  
Reference Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens 5: 156, fig. 58 (29 Sep. 1982).
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Euphrasia bowdeniae

Conventionally accepted as Euphrasia bowdeniae (CHAH 2011).

Euphrasia bowdeniae is a semi-parasitic, short-lived, perennial herb, that can grow up to 22 cm in height, but are most usually less than 20 cm tall. The species has mauve, purple or violet flowers with deeper markings in the throat. Flower racemes (groups of flowers) are usually comprised of four to ten individual flowers, though groups up to 20 have been recorded. Stems are often reddish in colour and leaves are glossy green to reddish, elliptic to obovate and usually have a single pair of teeth on the margin 4–7.5 mm long and to 3.2 mm wide (Barker 1982, 2011; Harden 1992; NSW NPWS 2000p). The species is known to have rootlets that can be connected to those of other plants. The fruit forms a capsule around 5 mm long with 3–16 mm small, ribbed seeds (NSW NPWS 2000p).

Endemic to the higher parts of the Blue Mountains area of NSW, the species has been recorded at Wentworth Falls, Blackheath and the Jamison Valley. Surveys in 1999 relocated E. bowdeniae from four known localities at only one site. This was along the National Pass Track at Wentworth Falls, within the Blue Mountains National Park (NSW NPWS 2000p).

The area of occupancy is not known; however Blackheath is the northern and western limit of the species' known range, with Korowall Buttress at Mt. Solitary, south of Katoomba, representing the southern and eastern limit (NSW NPWS 2000o).

Suitable habitat for E. bowdeniae has been surveyed at Mt. Solitary, Katoomba Falls, Leura and Blackheath, though surveys were not undertaken during the species peak detectability flowering period (NSW NPWS 2000o).

Less than 1000 individuals have been recorded (Briggs & Leigh 1996).

Based on observations at the one re-recorded population, the population trend for the species may be one of decline. Many plants are recorded as reproductively mature and seed is produced, however recruitment of seedlings is not high. Factors suggested to account for low recruitment include high seed mortality; poor germination rates; absence of available host plants; or competition with other species for available resources. The habitat preference of the species (wet montane heath) may also lead to high seed mortality due to limited soil availability, washing away of seed in rainwater or from seepage over rock faces, and the fluctuating wet and dry periods (NSW NPWS 2000o). 

The species is confined to montane heath vegetation on wet or damp, vertical sandstone rock faces of major cliffs where it grows in small pockets of damp, sandy soil at the base or on ledges. The species may also potentially occur in damp sites at the top of cliffs (Barker 1982; Harden 1992; NPWS 2000p). The known sites of Euphrasia bowdeniae are located within a soil classification known as Hassans Walls soil landscape, with steep Narrabeen Sandstone cliffs and colluvial talus slopes over Illawarra coal measures (NSW NPWS 2000p).

The sandstone rock faces obtain moisture through seepage to support a range of heath plants, particularly epacrids and ferns. One site, where E. bowdeniae is known, occurs close to a small waterfall. Main associated flora species include Rock Sprengelia (Sprengelia monticola), Necklace Heath (Dracophyllum secundum), Epacris crassifolia, Blunt-leaf heath (E. obtusifolia), Woolly Xanthosia (Xanthosia pilosa), Bauera microphylla, Alania endlicheri, Fork-leaved Sundew (Drosera binata), Pterostylis species, Black Bog-rush (Schoenus melanostachys), Scrambling coralfern (Gleichenia microphylla) and Blechnum species. Small shrubs growing at the base of cliffs or on ledges include Pink Tea Tree (Leptospermum squarrosum), Tantoon (L. polygalifolium), Hillock bush (Melaleuca hypercifolia) and Sticky Daisy-bush (Olearia elliptica) (NSW NPWS 2000p). Altitude at sites varies between 600–750 m above sea level (asl) (NSW DECCW 2005ek), though the species is suggested to potentially occur up to 1100 m asl (Barker 1982).

Euphrasia bowdeniae is predicted to live longer than other herbaceous plant species, as the woody base and branching observed in plants at one site suggests extended growth periods. The National Pass Track population has been monitored over 17 years and survived in situ in this period. Detailed information on recruitment and death rates over that time, however, is not available (NSW NPWS 2000p).

Flowers have been recorded on E. bowdeniae from September to mid-December, and fruits from early December. Old flower heads and fruits may stay on the plant until April. The pollinators of E. bowdeniae are unknown. The species is said to produce seeds copiously. As seeds are small, dispersal is most likely to be via gravity, water and wind, often close to parent plants, with seed accumulating on ledges, in soil pockets or at the base of rock faces (Barker 1982; Harden 1992; NSW NPWS 2000p).

The seeds of Australian species of Euphrasia usually germinate readily but the establishment of plants is difficult. This is probably due to their non-host specific, semi-parasitic nature, where growth rate and reproductive output would be reduced in the absence of hosts (Leigh et al. 1984; Potts 1999). Habitat availability in the form of open ground and adequate moisture levels are also required for germination and seedling survival of E. bowdeniae. Damp, moss covered surfaces may also trap seed and provide a suitable substrate for germination (NSW NPWS 2000p). Storage of seed in the soil seedbank, while capable of surviving for decades, is also likely to be limited by the availability of soil. This is an issue at the rocky sites preferred by E. bowdeniae, which accumulate minimal amounts of soil (NSW NPWS 2000p). There is no evidence of vegetative spread in E. bowdeniae but re-growth from the woody base of plants has been observed (NSW NPWS 2000p). Profuse germination is stated as occurring post fire events (Potts 1999).

Surveys for E. bowdeniae should be concentrated along steep cliff lines and wet to damp rock faces in the Upper Blue Mountains area. As plants of the species are small, inconspicuous and superficially similar to many other heath plants, the prime period for surveying for E. bowdeniae is during the flowering period (September to mid-December) when it is easier to identify. As the preferred habitat is usually inaccessible rock faces, surveys may best be conducted by binoculars. During winter, plants may die back and be hidden among other plants so this is not a suitable survey period.

E. bowdeniae is most easily confused with Woolly Xanthosia, Varied Mitrewort (Mitrasacme polymorpha) and Bauera microphylla, from which it may be distinguished by having opposite leaves (as opposed to alternate or whorled in the other species), entire leaves (which are often divided in Xanthosia) and one pair of teeth along margins. No other species of Euphrasia grows on rock faces in the local area.

E. bowdeniae may be distinguished from the Eyebright (Euphrasia collina subsp. paludosa), that also occurs in the local area, by its often procumbent habit, less toothed leaf margins, small number of flowers, smaller capsules and its cliff habitat (NSW NPWS 2000o).


As E. bowdeniae has evolved largely in the absence of fire, due to the rocky nature of its habitat, increased occurrence of wildfire may potentially eliminate populations. Wildfire may also destroy the seedbank due to raised temperatures. Populations in drier sites or where there is little protection from rock faces are most vulnerable (NSW DECCW 2005ek; NSW NPWS 2000o, 2000p).

Recreational pressures, physical destruction of plants and habitat modification

Many of the recorded sites of E. bowdeniae occur along tracks in the popular tourist areas of Wentworth Falls and Blackheath, which are subject to intense recreational pressure. Impacts such as trampling and flower picking may result in the loss of individuals and a decline in regenerative ability. Any loss of individuals is likely to be significant considering the rarity of E. bowdeniae. As a semi-parasitic species, the loss of associated host species at sites from similar impacts would also be detrimental to E. bowdeniae (NSW DECCW 2005ek; NSW NPWS 2000o, 2000p).

Climate change, small population size and associated vulnerability to stochastic events

A serious long-term threat is likely to be low genetic diversity due to the small, isolated nature of populations. Populations with low genetic variability are more prone to extinction from extreme or rapid environmental change. Potential threats to the species include hydrology changes, such as alterations to the moisture regime and reduced water quality, and weeds that may be a problem at some sites (NSW DECCW 2005ek; NSW NPWS 2000p).

Biology, competition and older plants

As the species is semi-parasitic, the extent and specificity of dependence on host plants may also potentially affect the success of seedling establishment and growth. Euphrasia bowdeniae may also face competition from other flora species in the rocky areas it is known from, including Woolly Xanthosia (Xanthosia pilosa), a small shrub noted to occupy a similar niche to E. bowdeniae and occurs commonly at recorded sites. This may affect seedling establishment based on the limited availability of soil (NSW NPWS 2000o).

Mortality rates of older plants may also be significant as a result of wildfire, dry periods, competition, disturbance and dislodgment or loss of host plants (NSW NPWS 2000o).

NSW DECCW (2005ek) identify the following 11 priority actions to protect the species:

  1. Monitor known sites for the operation of threats and for changes in population status.
  2. Identify, map and survey potential habitat during flowering period to establish distribution.
  3. Review conservation status with a view to upgrading the species to endangered if a significant number of new populations are not located during targeted survey.
  4. Prepare and implement a species' management plan for on-park sites.
  5. Where possible, restrict access to sites through fencing or re-routing tracks. Install signage along tracks near recorded locations that explain the sensitive nature of this species' habitat.
  6. Reserve fire management strategy to include operational guidelines to protect this species from fire.
  7. Undertake targeted bush regeneration works, where required.
  8. Undertake management focussed biological and ecological studies (particularly the feasibility of propagation by seed and/or cuttings).
  9. Collect seed and soil for NSW Seedbank. Develop collection program (including mycorrhizal symbiont) in collaboration with the Sydney Botanic Gardens - all known provenances (conservation collection).
  10. Provide map of known occurrences to Rural Fire Service and seek inclusion of mitigative measures on Bush Fire Risk Management Plan(s), risk register and/or operation map(s).
  11. Investigate seed viability, germination, dormancy and longevity (in the natural environment and in storage).

The NSW Rural Fire Service has also included measures to protect Euphrasia bowdeniae from the impacts of fire management actions. These include a fire frequency for the species of no more than once every seven years, and that hazard reduction techniques including slashing once every 10 years, with no tree removal or trittering (NSW RFS 2004).

Management documents for Euphrasia bowdeniae can be found at the start of this profile.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Recreational Activities:Disturbance, especially from human recreational activities and development Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Euphrasia bowdeniae (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008bp) [Conservation Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes and water quality Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Euphrasia bowdeniae (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008bp) [Conservation Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Euphrasia bowdeniae (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008bp) [Conservation Advice].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low genetic diversity and genetic inbreeding Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Euphrasia bowdeniae (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008bp) [Conservation Advice].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Euphrasia bowdeniae (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008bp) [Conservation Advice].

Barker, R. (2011). New South Wales Flora Online. [Online]. Sydney, Australia: The Plant Information Network System of Botanic Gardens Trust. Available from: [Accessed: 06-Jan-2011].

Barker, W.R. (1982). Taxonomic studies in Euphrasia L. (Scrophulariaceae). A revised infrageneric classification, and a revision of the genus in Australia. Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. 5:1-304.

Briggs, J.D. & J.H. Leigh (1996). Rare or Threatened Australian Plants - Revised Edition. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing.

Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH) (2011). Australian Plant Census. [Online]. Australian National Herbarium, Australian National Botanic Gardens and Australian Biological Resources Study . Available from:

Harden, G.J. (Ed.) (1992). Flora of New South Wales Volume 3. Kensington, NSW: University of NSW Press.

Leigh, J., R. Boden & J. Briggs (1984). Extinct and Endangered Plants of Australia. Melbourne, Victoria: Macmillan.

NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW) (2005ek). Euphrasia bowdeniae - profile. [Online]. Available from:

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS) (2000o). Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines - Euphrasia bowdeniae. [Online]. Available from:

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS) (2000p). Euphrasia bowdeniae Threatened Species Profile. [Online]. Available from:

Potts, W.C. (1999). Recovery Plans for Threatened Tasmanian Lowland Euphrasia Species - 1997-2001. [Online]. TAS DPIWE. Available from:

Rural Fire Service (RFS) (2004). Threatened species hazard reduction list: Part 1-Plants. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 12-May-2008].

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2008bp). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Euphrasia bowdeniae. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from:

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Euphrasia bowdeniae in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Thu, 21 Aug 2014 07:31:08 +1000.