Friday, February 3, 2012

Fireweed

Epilobium

Epilobium angustifolium ( Fireweed )
Also called Chamerion angustifolium. A fast growing to invasive perennial, that in the wild colonizes sites left bare after forest fires and rapidly forms a thick mat of spreading roots that prevent erosion by binding the soil. It often forms pure stands covering large areas, often along roadsides. Fireweed, reaches a maximum size of 10 x 8 ( rarely over 7 ) feet, and is native over large areas in the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, it is native from central Alaska to southern Nunavut to Winisk, Ontario to Labrador, Newfoundland & Greenland; south to southern California to New Mexico to South Dakota to northern Illinois to the Smoky Mountains to Maryland ). In the Windsor/Essex County, Ontario region; it was only known from the Ohio lakeshore where uncommon during the 1800s. It is also native to boreal regions throughout Eurasia and also further south in mountainous regions.
The alternate-arranged, lance-shaped leaves, up to 8 x 2 inches in size, are mid-green above, bright green beneath. The foliage often turns to red during autumn.
The purplish-pink flowers, up to 1.2 inches wide, are borne on racemes during summer into early autumn.
Hardy zones 1 to 5. It thrives in full sun and is soil tolerant though preferring moist, humus-rich, well drained soil. Propagation is from seed or division ( early spring or autumn ) and this plant often reproduces itself.
Fireweed is edible and the leaves and stems are rich in Vitamin A and C. The young shoots can be snapped off at the base and cooked a few minutes like Asparagus or chopped and used in salads. The older leaves and stems are bitter.
The flowers and flower buds can be added to salads.
The natives in Siberia made a drink considered to be somewhat between LSD and Gin that was made from brewing a drink with the hullucinogenic mushroom ( Fly Agaric - Amanita muscariai ) and the pith of the Fireweed stems.
Being very rapid growing, the Firewood is useful for Green Manure.
Epilobium hirsutum ( Hairy Willow Herb ), E. latifolium ( River Beauty ) and E. montana are all similarly edible.

* photos of unknown internet source

* historical archive photos


'Album'
White flowers; otherwise identical to species.

Epilobium dodonaei
A very fast growing to invasive perennial, reaching up to 3 feet, that is native to temperate regions from central Europe to western Asia.
The toothed, linear leaves are hairy mid-green.
The deep pinkish-purple flowers are borne on terminal racemes all summer long.
Hardy zones 5 to 8 in full sun to partial shade on moist, humus-rich, well drained soil.

Epilobium fleisheri
A long-lived, mat-forming perennial, reaching a maximum size of 32 x 20 inches, that is native to the European Alps.
The rose-red flowers are borne on flat-topped clusters during late summer.
Hardy zones 3 to 7 in full sun.

Epilobium hirsutum
A rhizomatous perennial, reaching a maximum size of 7 x 6 + feet, that is native to open swampy sites in Eurasia. It is also locally naturalized in parts of northeastern North America.
The oppositely-arranged, sharply-toothed, oblanceolate leaves are up to 4 x 0.5 inches in size.
The reddish-purple flowers, up to 1 inch wide, are borne on clusters all summer long.
Hardy zones 2 to 7 in full sun on moist soil. It is not drought tolerant.

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