Desiree Bell is inspired by botanicals and natural materials. She is a vegetarian who has a certificate in herbal studies and a certificate from Australasian College of Health Sciences in Aromatherapy. Visit her blog Beyond A Garden.
What do you visualize a plant with the name fireweed would look like? Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) belongs to the primrose family (Onagraceae) and has showy flowers that have four petals and vary in hue from bright pink to white. The lower flowers mature first and the uppermost bloom toward the end of summer. The leaves are long, narrow and willow-like. In the fall, downy seeds are released from the pods. Fireweed’s habitat ranges from burned out and logged areas to meadow and gravel areas. They can be in their natural habitat from northern Alaska and the Yukon to California.
Photo by Wayne Cowan
In early spring, the shoots can be harvested and eaten raw, steamed or blended into stews and casseroles. The young leaves can be picked in late spring before the plant flowers and used in a green salad or vegetable dish. Summer is when the buds and flowers are ready to be picked; they will make a colorful addition to salads. Add the flowers to sweet creations like candy, syrups and ice cream. Honey is made primarily from fireweed nectar and has a distinctive, spiced flavor. Jelly is also a popular product made out of the herb. Visit Food.com for a Fireweed Jelly recipe.
Photo by Desiree Bell
Photo Credit Desiree Bell
Tea can be made out of the leaves and used for constipation. A decoction is made by boiling the whole herb and used as a treatment for relieving whooping cough and asthma. For an external application the leaves and flowers can be steeped in oil and used for piles. The root dried blended with a salve can be used to soothe infected insect bites and skin abrasions.
Seeds can be purchased from Horizon Herbs, and the tiny seed sown in the spring by pressing it firmly on the ground’s surface. It can be grown in all Zones and prefers full sun with moist or poorly drained soil.
Reference: Discovering Wild Plants, Alaska, Western Canada and the Northwest by Janice J. Schofield