Fireweed

  

(Chamaenerion angustifolium)

Fireweed is a perennial wildflower found around the world in the temperate north and boreal regions. Abundantly found in forest edges, waters edge, roadsides, and recently disturbed sites like those after forest fires. Was called bombweed in Europe from its ability to multiply and spread over recently bombed areas. It was also one of the first plants to establish after the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

From June to September, a terminal raceme of 50+ striking magenta flowers appear, blooming from the bottom progressively upward, pollinated by a wide variety of insects including butterflies and moths. Long seed pods follow, releasing seeds clothed with silky hairs. As the seeds disperse by wind they leave the pods curled when empty. Tall, smooth, reddish stems are surrounded by spirals of lanceolate leaves as angustifolium means"narrow-leaved".

Fireweed can spread abundantly by both seed an rhizomes. It's easy or even care free to maintain provided it gets sun and proper drainage. It can quickly provide visual interest in open areas and does well as an ornamental. Fireweed can also be used in restoration projects as it's very good at covering bare or waste sites hit by logging, construction, or natural disasters.

Young shoots and leaves are edible and are a good source of vitamin A and C. They were eaten by indigenous North American and Siberian peoples, and tea was made from the leaves. Fireweed is a known everyday tea, popular in Russia, and also used there medicinally. The Flowers can be made into a jelly or syrup; these along with fireweed honey are a popular item in Alaska.