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Chamerion angustifolium, Fireweed, Northwest Native Plants, Oregon Native Plant, Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Portland
Chamerion angustifolium, Fireweed, Northwest Native Plants, Oregon Native Plant, Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Portland
Lakeside population of Chamerion angustifolium, Fireweed, Northwest Native Plants, Oregon Native Plant, Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Portland

Fireweed

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Chamerion angustifolium

Sunny meadows of abundant magenta Fireweed flowers are a sight to behold. Each flower spire can be adorned with up to 50 striking blooms that hold all summer long, providing critical food for pollinators. By fall, the flowers evolve into silky tufts of seeds that release and float like clouds to lucky new locations. Named fireweed due to its ability to colonize burned areas rapidly. It was one of the first plants to appear after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. 

  • Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous perennial herbaceous plant
  • Size at maturity: usually 4’-6’ tall, but can reach 8’, spreads laterally by rhizomes
  • Light requirements: full sun, part sun/part shade
  • Moisture requirements: moist to dry soil
  • Bloom time: June - Sept
  • Growth rate/ease: fast growing, easy to grow
  • Wildlife support: flowers are a nectar source for adult butterflies, bees, other insect pollinators, and hummingbirds and attract/support beneficial, pest-eating insects; shoots are a preferred food of deer, moose, caribou, muskrat, and rabbits; leaves are a larval food source for butterflies and moths; overall the plant is valuable food for wildlife and a host for caterpillars
  • Native habitat/range: common from sea-level to subalpine elevations, in open or disturbed sites, especially recent burns in meadows, clearcuts, and mixed forests from southern OR through British Columbia. Portland Plant List - yes.
  • Special features & uses: medicinal tea can be made from the leaves, which are high in vitamins A and C; shoots and greens can be cooked/braised as a tasty spring vegetable, while flower nectar yields a rich, spicy honey and can be made into jelly; wildlife favorite; attracts/supports hummingbirds; landscape uses include pollinator garden, meadowscapes, and edges/openings of woodland gardens and erosion control on exposed slopes

Gardening with Fireweed: This is an effortless and versatile habitat plant. It thrives in a wide range of light and soil conditions, though it prefers at least half a day of sun. Perfectly suited to the PNW garden, it does great with seasonal wetness, and tolerates summer drought just fine. It spreads vigorously by rhizomes, colonizing large areas quickly - which may require some control over time. You can help keep it in check by planting it in areas where soils are thinner and drier and by not providing supplemental water. 

Photo Credit 1: Tara Lemezis

Photo Credit 2: "Chamerion angustifolium 2" by Alexxx1979 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo Credit 3: "Chamerion angustifolium" by Alexxx1979 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0