Chamerion angustifolium

Lindsay wrote today’s entry:

Thank you to Lassi Kalleinen, aka finnarct@Flickr, for submitting a wonderful capture of this near-worldwide staple (posted via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool, original image)!

Found throughout North America, Europe, Asia and even parts of Africa, this roadside perennial depends on wind for seed dispersal and will establish quickly in open areas after a disturbance or fire, hence its common name, fireweed. Indeed, this brazen species was one of the first to colonize after Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980.

Fireweed has been prized by First Nations for its versatility: the Haida used the outer stem fibres of fireweed to make cord while the Coast Salish used the seed fluff for weaving and padding. When properly prepared soon after picking, the leaves are also a good source of vitamin C and provitamin-A. It also makes excellent honey! The Plants for a Future Database lists fireweed as traditionally having been used as an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, demulcent, emollient, hypnotic, laxative, poultice, and tonic.

A photograph of the plant is available in this previous BPotD posting: Chamerion angustifolium.

Chamerion angustifolium

11 responses to “Chamerion angustifolium”

  1. ej

    Does anyone know the proper way to prepare leaves?

  2. Irma

    I just love the fireweed! It is so stately. Here in Sweden it is also called the rose of the railroad builders (rallarros) as it appears along the disturbed soil on on the railroad banks.
    The white form is “almost” allowed into the garden borders.

  3. Dori

    I thought Fireweed was Epilobium augustifolium.

  4. Dori

    EJ: I read that young shoots are taken and mixed with other leaves and steamed. The older leaves are tough and bitter. (I never tried to eat them.)

  5. Alison

    Thank you for the beautiful, beautiful photograph! I’ll never look at Fireweed in the same way again.

  6. Abrimaal

    As I know Chamaenerion angustifolium is an invalid name of this plant, the proper is Epilobium angustifolium L. 1753

  7. Toni

    This is probably my favourite of all the pix I’ve seen on this site. Stunning! I’ve got to check out more photos of this plant. Absolutely gorgeous!

  8. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Very beautiful! Lovely soft, silvery filaments. Beautiful iridescence; you can almost see a rainbow.

  9. elizabeth a airhart

    are we not lovely today
    our very own fan dancer

  10. Douglas Justice

    Dori and Abrimaal: While there is still some debate, most botanists now accept the name Chamerion angustifolium as the correct one for fireweed. Recent molecular studies show that the two groups (Epilobium and Chamerion) are very close, but separate. The article “Paraphyly in Tribe Onagreae: Insights into Phylogenetic Relationships of Onagraceae Based on Nuclear and Chloroplast Sequence Data” by R.A. Levin et al. (Systematic Botany 29(1):147-164. 2004) makes reference to the separation. In terms of morphology, Chamerion produces leaves in a spiral arrangement, while Epilobium species do not.

  11. Gary in Olympia

    Douglas: Thanks for the clarification; I’ll change it in our plant database.

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