Native plants: Fireweed

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Chamerion angustifolium, fireweed, grows in all parts of Canada, says the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Encyclopedia. “Fireweed became Yukon’s floral emblem in 1957 and was previously classified at epilobium angustifolium. This hardy plant can grow to form large stands along roadsides, railways, clearings and open dry areas from mid-July to September. Fireweed can grow from 60 to 180 cm with deep pink flowers blooming along the tops in a spike in mid-summer. As with its name, fireweed is often the first plant to grow after a fire.”

The plant encyclopedia section on epilobium angustifolium says, “Bees and flower flies visit the flowers for pollen and nectar while butterflies, moths and hummingbirds enjoy the nectar. Fireweed is appealing to many Canadian mammals, too, including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, muskrats as well as pikas (small mountain mammal), caribou and deer. Native people around the world have used this plant in many ways. As food, they ate nutritious young shoots in the spring and pith from the inner stem and flowers in the summer. Roots were also eaten and leaves were used for tea.”

Fireweed is one of the first plants to grow up after a wildfire.

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