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Botanical Name: Epilobium angustifolium
Species: C. angustifolium
Synonyms: Flowering Willow. French Willow. Persian Willow. Rose Bay Willow. Blood Vine. Blooming Sally. Purple Rocket. Wickup. Wicopy. Tame Withy. Chamaenerion angustifolium.
Common Names: Fireweed (mainly in North America), Great willow-herb (some parts of Canada), or Rosebay willowherb (mainly in Britain)
Habitat:Epilobium angustifolium is native throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere, including large parts of the boreal forests. It grows on the rocky ground, waste areas, woodland edges and gardens.
Epilobium angustifolium is a perennial herbaceous plant in the willowherb family Onagraceae. The reddish stems of this plant are usually simple, erect, smooth, 0.5–2.5 m (1½–8 feet) high with scattered alternate leaves. The leaves are entire, lanceolate, and pinnately veined. A related species, dwarf fireweed (Chamerion latifolium), grows to 0.3–0.6 m tall.
The flowers have four magenta to pink petals, 2 to 3 cm in diameter. The styles have four stigmas, which occur in symmetrical terminal racemes.
The reddish-brown linear seed capsule splits from the apex. It bears many minute brown seeds, about 300 to 400 per capsule and 80,000 per plant. The seeds have silky hairs to aid wind dispersal and are very easily spread by the wind, often becoming a weed and a dominant species on disturbed ground. Once established, the plants also spread extensively by underground roots, an individual plant eventually forming a large patch…
The leaves of fireweed are unique in that the leaf veins are circular and do not terminate on the edges of the leaf, but form circular loops and join together inside the outer leaf margins. This feature makes the plants very easy to identify in all stages of growth. When fireweed first emerges in early spring, it can closely resemble several highly toxic members of the lily family, however, it is easily identified by its unique leaf vein structure.
An easily grown plant, it prefers a well-drained but moisture retentive soil in a sunny position, though it succeeds in most soils. It prefers a moist soil, but also succeeds on dry banks. It is best grown in open woodland. Plants are hardy to at least -20°c. The rosebay willowherb spreads vigorously by means of a creeping rhizome, and often forms large patches. It is apt to become a weed especially through its seed which is very light and capable of travelling long distances in the wind. It is often one of the first plants to colonize disturbed areas such as scenes of fires. A very ornamental plant, it is the floral emblem of the Yukon. A food plant for the caterpillars of several lepidoptera species, it is also a good bee plant.
Seed – sow early spring in situ or as soon as the seed is ripe. This plant is more than capable of finding its own way into most gardens and does not usually require an invitation. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.
Edible Uses: The young shoots were often collected in the spring by Native American people and mixed with other greens. As the plant matures the leaves become tough and somewhat bitter. The southeast Native Americans use the stems in this stage. They are peeled and eaten raw. When properly prepared soon after picking they are a good source of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A. The Dena’ina add fireweed to their dogs’ food.
The root can be roasted after scraping off the outside, but often tastes bitter. To mitigate this, the root is collected before the plant flowers and the brown thread in the middle removed.
In Alaska, candies, syrups, jellies, and even ice cream are made from fireweed. Monofloral honey made primarily from fireweed nectar has a distinctive, spiced flavor.
In Russia, its leaves are used as tea substitute and were exported, known in Western Europe as Koporye Tea or Russian Tea. Fireweed leaves can undergo fermentation, much like real tea. Today, koporye tea is still occasionally consumed though not commercially important.
Part used in medicine : The Herb
The roots and leaves have demulcent, tonic and astringent properties and are used in domestic medicine in decoction, infusion and cataplasm, as astringents.
Used much in America as an intestinal astringent.
The plant contains mucilage and tannin.
The dose of the herb is 30 to 60 grains. It has been recommended for its antispasmodic properties in the treatment of whoopingcough, hiccough and asthma.
In ointment, it has been used locally as a remedy for infantile cutaneous affections.
By some modern botanists, this species is now assigned to a separate genus and designated: Chamcenerion angustifolium.
Chamerion angustifolium (Epilobium angustifolium) herb has been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea for treatment of disorders of the prostate, kidneys, and urinary tract.
Fireweed’s natural variation in ploidy has prompted its use in scientific studies of polyploidy’s possible effects on adaptive potential and species diversification.
Fireweed is also a medicine of the Upper Inlet Dena’ina, who treat pus-filled boils or cuts by placing a piece of the raw stem on the afflicted area. This is said to draw the pus out of the cut or boil and prevents a cut with pus in it from healing over too quickly.
A fibre obtained from the outer stems is used to make cordage. The ‘cottony’ seed hairs are used as a stuffing material or as a tinder. The powdered inner cortex is applied to the hands and face to give protection from the cold.
Known Hazards : An infusion of the leaves is said to stupefy a person.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.