written by Karen Pick
Mid-way through summer, Fireweed begins to bloom! It is fun to mark the passage of time by watching the pink blossoms march their way up the plant. The buds open from the bottom of the stalk and move up as time goes on over a several week period.
Despite its name, any soil that has been disturbed, whether it is by fire, logging or other disturbances is prime breeding ground for Fireweed, a pioneer species. Following the volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980, the ash covered ground was soon covered by Fireweed and it was the first plan to colonize London after the bombing in World War II.
Fireweed can be used in a variety of ways; it has been used to treat bruises, people eat the shoots and leaves as a vegetable similar to asparagus and also brew it into tea and make soup from it. Additionally, the Haida (an indigenous people of the Pacific) historically wove strips of the stem into twine and made fishing nets among other interesting uses.
Wildflowers of the BWCA and the North Shore by Mark Sparky Stensaas, 2003 Kollath + Stensaas Publishing.
Trailside Botany: 101 Favorite Trees, Shrubs and Wildflowers of the Upper Midwest by John Bates, 1995, Pfeifer Hamilton Publishers.