Chamerion angustifolium (Chamaenerion angulstifolium, Chamerion danielsii, Chamerion platyphyllum) | Fireweed
Fireweed, also known as Narrow-leaf Fireweed, Blooming Sally, and Rosebay Willowherb, is a tall, showy wildflower that grows from sea level to the sub-alpine zone in many parts of the world including much of the United States, every province in Canada, Eurasia, and is the national flower of Russia. Fireweed thrives in maritime climates with short, warm summers and long, cold winters. It got the name Fireweed from its ability to quickly colonize areas that were scorched by fire. It was one of the first plants to appear after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980, and quickly colonized burned ground after the bombing of London in World War II, bringing color to an otherwise grim landscape.
A hardy perennial, fireweed typically grows 4 to 6 feet in height, but can reach a towering 9 feet! The dark green leaves are long and narrow and unique in that the leaf veins are circular and do not terminate at the leaf edges. A spike of up to 50 or more bright-pink flowers grows at the top of the stem from July to September. Seeds have a tuft of silky hairs at the end, like a small dandelion seed. The delicate fluffy parachutes can transport seeds far from the parent plant.
Chamerion angustifolium thrives in open meadows, old fields, along streams, forest edges, roadsides, burned forests and swamps, avalanche areas, riverbars, railroad rights-of-way and highways. In some areas, this species is so abundant that it can carpet an entire meadow with its brilliantly-bright flowers.
Fireweed is most often found alongside conifers such as: black spruce, cedar, hemlock, Douglas-fir, silver fir, Jack pine, Balsam fir, tamarack, shortleaf pine, lodgepole pine, western larch, blue spruce, and Sitka spruce. Hardwoods, including: red maple, aspen, paper birch, and oak. And shrubs such as snowbrush, snowberry, thimbleberry, salmonberry, prickly rose, hoary willow, black twinberry and common juniper.
Makes a beautiful addition to the home garden too with its bright, abundant flowers and exceptional height. Does best in well-drained, moist soil with the addition of fertilizer. Moderate to no watering after plants are established. Fireweed reproduces abundantly from rhizomes as well as from seed, so can quickly take over a garden if left unattended. If you are looking for beautiful native flowers that are easy and quickly to establish, this is the one to choose! You will be rewarded with plenty of pollinators.
Chamerion angustifolium has been important to native people around the world for its health and practical uses. Historically, the fluff was used as fiber for weaving and as padding. High in vitamins A and C, fireweed shoots also provide a tasty spring vegetable to eat, and tea can be made from the leaves, which are low in sodium, and very low in Cholesterol and are a good source of Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc and Copper, and Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium and Manganese. Flowers yield copious nectar that creates a rich, spicy honey. Honey, jelly, and syrups made from fireweed flowers are extremely popular in areas where this flower grows in abundance. Honey Bee keepers love to have this plant around.
Seeds are non-dormant and can be planted in the spring. Newly collected seeds will germinate within 10 days with heat, humidity, and light. Do not cover tiny seeds with soil.