ROSEBAY WILLOWHERB (Chamerion angustifolim)
How to Identify Rosebay Willowherb(Edible)
Rosebay Willowherb, Fireweed
Meaning of botanical name
The first part, Chamerion, comes from the Greek words for low to the ground, chamai, and oldeander, nerion. Angustifolium is derived from Latin words for narrow, angustus, and leaves, folium.
Said to produce a stupefying effect if too much is consumed
Could be confused with
Other Willowherbs, but Rosebay Willowherb has much narrower leaves
Food plant of
Uncertain, but visited by snails and slugs
Range and distribution
Common over the Northern Hemisphere.
Disturbed soil, waste ground, woodland clearings, garden borders, and fire sites. It is an early pioneer plant and often the first to return after a fire, which is where one of its common names, Fireweed, comes from
Starts as a rosette of lance-shaped leaves, which then becomes a tall stalk. The flowers form in a cluster at the top of the stalk and each is a deep pink colour with four petals.
After pollination, seed pods develop that split revealing a white “fluff”, within which the seeds are carried on the wind.
Folklore, tall tales, and not so folklore:
In Russia, the flowering of Rosebay Willowherb is said to indicate the disappearance of summer and its full bloom indicates the start of autumn
The young shoots can be steamed and eaten like asparagus, and the leaves can be added to salads. However, raw leaves can be bitter. The flowers can also be added to salads and are less bitter.
The pith can be removed from the stem and used as a thickener for soups and stews
Has been used as an intestinal astringent and as an antispasmodic in asthma attacks, respiratory infections, and hiccups.
Please visit your doctor if you have a medical complaint
After the eruption of Mount St Helens in the USA, over 81% of the first plants to appear were Fireweed/Rosebay Willowherb.
The stems are used to make useful bushcraft cordage, while the fluffy seed heads make great tinder