Archive for the ‘Family: Willowherb’ Category

One of my favorite characteristics of a wildflower is its ability to grow where ever it can.  The Rosebay Willowherb is a perfect example of a resilient, beautiful weed.  Part of the willowherb family, this flower has several names in English, depending on where you’re from and when you grew up. In Britain, they call it the Rosebay Willowherb and it has this name in the Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe Collins Pocket Guide. In North America, it is called Fireweed. This name comes from its tendency to grow on burnt sites after forestfires because it likes to grow on burned over land.  In World War II, this flower was called ‘bombweed’ in Britain because it would grow in bomb craters. I found this old illustration of the willowherb, but it is called ‘blooming sally’, I wonder why? That name hadn’t come up in any of the other sources I used to learn about this flower.

In Swedish, it is called Mjölke (mjölk means milk). I find this interesting because it is so opposite from the name fireweed! But ‘mjölke’ must come from the milky silky hairs that the seeds grow to fly to a new site.  In Swedish, there are many other common names (brudfackla, duntrav, kropp, mjölkört, praktduna, rallarros, rävrumpa, rävsvans, skogsbloss) according to Den Virtuella Floran. The latin name is Epilobium angustifolium but some botanists (and the Collins Guide) put it in the Chamerion genus. The wikipedia article on the Rosebay Willowherb is very well written and comprehensive.

Rosebay Willowherb (Mjölke), Stockholm, Sweden July 2011

The Rosebay Willowherb is a very tall, almost hairless perennial. The flowers are bright pink with four petals and are on the stalk in a pyramidal shape. I liked it that the plants seem to have flowers in several different stages of growth all at the same time.

The Fireweed is a pioneer species, the first to grow in clear sites. This explains why I saw it growing in a construction site through gravel. It is used to reestablish vegetation in sites.

Rosebay Willowherb (Mjölke), Stockholm, Sweden July 2011

After they bloom, the seeds get silky hairs to disperse with the wind. I did not get a chance to get a picture of this, perhaps next year!

According to wikipedia, this plant has several medicinal uses and is nutritious and edible.


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