Fireweed (Erechtites hieracifolius)

Fireweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

Fireweed is a very beautiful plant which is found moist ground, shores, marshy places, floodplains, disturbed areas and fields.

Fireweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

The plant has a habit of colonizing recently burnt sites which is the origin of the common name.

Fireweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

The scientific name of the plant has changed at least three times. In Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide it is called Epilobium angustifolium which has  the second common name of Great Willow Herb. There are several Epilobiums which grow in the Toronto area.

Hairy Willow Herb (Epilobium hirsutum)

The ROM Field guide calls it Chamerion angustifolium. The most recent field guide Michigan Flora calls it Erichtites hieracifolius. Hieracifolius means with leaves like the Hawkweed plant.

Scientists are always looking for mistakes in the classification of plants and, apparently, Fireweed has been misclassified at least twice.

Fireweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

I am always happy to see Fireweed because I have never seen it in the Toronto area. It seems to start appearing as I travel north of Barrie. The photos in this article were take in Muskoka.

Fireweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

The flowers are pink (Newcomb’s calls them magenta) and have 4 petals and 8 stamens.

Fireweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

The plant has an erect stem and can be up to 2 meters tall.

The flowers grow on a terminal raceme which is up to 60 cm long.

Firweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

The leaves are alternate, crowded and stalkless.

Firweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

They are linear to lance-shaped and 15 – 20 cm long.

Firweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

We blame the origin of many weedy plants such as Ragweed and Dandelion on the other parts of the world, but Fireweed is one of the few North American plants of weedy habit to have become naturalized in parts of Europe.

Firweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

As long ago as in 1830, Raffinesque described Fireweed as useful in hemorrhage, wounds, headache, inflammations, herpes and diseases of the skin.

Firweed (Erichtites hieracifolius)

Miles Hearn

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