All the Species in My Yard

yup-all of them, great AND small

Easy glory: fireweed July 23, 2009

Filed under: Herbs — Martin John Brown @ 2:16 pm
Tags: ,

Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) is one of the classic wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest — you see these gorgeous splays of pink and purple, like botanical advertisements for cherry coke, all over the mountains in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.   The tall stalks sprout and wave, busting the blankness out of clearcuts, road shoulders, and even volcanic ashfields.  It’s also the pollen source for fireweed honey.

photo by flickr user code_poet, used under Creative Commons

photo by flickr user code_poet, used under Creative Commons

But unlike a lot of wildflowers, fireweed works really well in urban yards.  Once established from seed or rootstock, the 3-10 foot tall stalks tend to spread in lines (via runners) which makes them a kind of natural fence or border.  The flowers bring bees and birds and make amazing (if short-lived) cut flowers.  As the summer ends those flowers turn into silky seedpods which decay in a spectacular fashion:

photo by flickr user Zixii, used under Creative Commons

photo by flickr user Zixii, used under Creative Commons

Then when they’re too decayed, you just rip out the stalks. The roots remain underground, and will build you another fence next summer.

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