Fireweed

Fireweed, photo courtesy of Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, bugwood.org

Photo Courtesy of Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, http://www.bugwood.org/

Common Name(s):

Fireweed

Scientific Name:

Chamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub

Scientific Name Synonyms:

Chamaenerion angustifolium (L.) Scop.
Epilobium angustifolium
L.

Symbol:

CHAN9

Description:

Life Span: Perennial

Origin: Native

Season: Cool

Growth Characteristics: An erect, generally unbranching forb, growing up to 9 feet tall. It has fine roots and rhizomes. It flowers June to September, and reproduces from seeds and rhizomes.

Flowers/Inflorescence: Very showy, petals are deep pink to magenta or rarely white. Sepals often tinged in purple. Petals and sepals both occur in groups of 4. Inferior ovary.

Fruits/Seeds:A 4-sided, 4-celled capsule, split into 4 valves. It is often purplish and up to 3 inches long, and contains 300 to 500 seeds. Seeds have a tuft of long hair on one end. The fruit develops rapidly, and buds, flowers, and mature fruit can appear on the same plant.

Leaves: Alternate to spirally arranged. Blades are narrow and lance-shaped, margins are entire or remotely toothed. Leaves can be up to 8 inches long.

Ecological Adaptations:

Fireweed occurs in open woods and along streams. Fireweed is well adapted to disturbed areas such as cut-over or burned forests and swamps, avalanche areas, recently deglaciated areas, and riverbars. Additional disturbed sites are highway and railroad rights-of-way, waste places, and old fields. It is especially abundant following fire.

Soils: It is adapted to dry and moist soils, growing in a broad range of soil types.

Associated Species: Aspen, Englemann spruce, subalpine fir.

Uses and Management:

Fireweed provides fair to good forage for sheep, and poor to fair for cattle. It is grazed to a minor extent by horses, deer, and elk. It becomes unpalatable with maturity.

It was historically used as a potherb. Young shoots can be cooked like asparagus, young leaves used in salads and steeped for tea. The pith of the stem can be used to flavor and thicken stews and soups. It is an important honey plant.