Fireweed or Willow-herb

Fireweed or Willow Herb, Epilobium angustifolium

Fireweed in bloom, photographer Shari Brewer

Fireweed is a common plant to find at burned and timber harvested areas.  Where you find Fireweed you are sure to find buzzing bees, humming birds, butterflies and in early mornings these ares are a favorite for grazing deer and elk.  The plants spread by tenacious wide spreading rhizomes and also freely seed themselves. "Epilobium" from Greek "epi", (upon) and "lobos", (a pod) refers to the elongated ovary of the flower which will later develop into a slender seed pod.  Angustifolium meaning "narrow leaved" refers to Fireweed's other common name "Willow-herb", the slender leaves of the plants being similar to the leaves of Willow trees.  Fireweed get its name due to the fact that these beautiful plants will be the first to reclaim the lands destroyed by forest fires.


Fireweed blooming with Whitehorse Mountain in the background, photographer Bob Herzer

Fireweed begins to bloom in late spring through summer.  These rosey-pink flowers born on erect stems can reach the heights of 6 feet, are very drought resistant, and often times these aggressive plants can cover many acres.  As the flowers mature they fade to a light pink, and then turn into downy white clusters of seeds which catch the slightest breeze sometimes appearing like clouds over the parent plants.  In the higher alpine areas you will find the Broad-leaved fireweed, Epilobium, latifolium which has a thicker and somewhat waxy leaves. The petals tend to be a rose to pale purple and occasionally white.  The Broad-leaved fireweed spreads mostly by seed rather than rhyizomes.


Fireweed going to seed with Pearl Everlasting in the foreground, photographer Bob Herzer

Fireweed begins to bloom in late spring through summer.  These rosey-pink flowers born on erect stems can reach the heights of 6 feet, are very drought resistant, and often times these aggressive plants can cover many acres.  As the flowers mature they fade to a light pink, and then turn into downy white clusters of seeds which catch the slightest breeze sometimes appearing like clouds over the parent plants.  In the higher alpine areas you will find the Broad-leaved fireweed, Epilobium, latifolium which has a thicker and somewhat waxy leaves. The petals tend to be a rose to pale purple and occasionally white.  The Broad-leaved fireweed spreads mostly by seed rather than rhyizomes.