But is hasn’t always been considered a weed. In Latin it is “Epilobium angustifolium” and is sometimes called Rosebay Willowherb, a much prettier name for this very pretty flower.
Back in the early days of my life in the woods, I made a point of studying everything that grew around me. My interest focused mostly on what we could eat and fireweed fit that category.
When the little stems first appear in the spring, they can be eaten like asparagus. I’m sure we tried them some 30 years ago, but they clearly did not make an impression and the Rosebay Willowherbs have forever since been allowed to grow as they like.
A couple of years ago, my interest in fireweed was rekindled. I learned that fireweed is the provincial flower of the Yukon Territory. That makes it important, yes?
But, more interesting is watching the flowers of fireweed reach ever upward.
Fireweed begins to grow in early spring, along with all the other wild herbs of the forest. It puts up a thin straight shoot, with tiny, long leaves adhering to the stem.
As it grows taller, the long, lance-shaped leaves reach out from all around the stem. By the start of summer, the flowerhead makes its appearance. This triangular protrusion begins to bloom from the bottom up. And quite wonderfully, the blooms come slowly enough to last the whole summer long.
As seed, the pods form below, new flowers blossom above. And little flower buds are always present at the pointy top. This is key. Because when there are no more little flower buds, when the last of the flowers have bloomed, summer is over.
Keep an eye on the fireweed flowers and you keep track of how much more summer we have to enjoy. It’s not over yet.
Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984.