In Great Britain they call it rosebay willow herb. Here it’s known for growing quickly and so we call it fireweed. When Mt St. Helen blew open it was one of the first plants to grow back on the mountain side. It really is a hardy plant and will grow on most land devastated by fire. Some natives used it for weaving and the shoots can be eaten as well. Some people use the leaves for salads.
You can make a nice hot tea from it too. Try some if you get a chance. Its high in vitamin C and A. As a tea it can be used for gastro-intestinal and bronchial problems. It was also used by them to treat burns and other skin conditions. It’s also being marketed as an anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory ingredient for skin care products.
The weed grows on many meadows and streams. Beautiful when you’re trekking through Alaska you’ll see it on the forest edges. But I included a map of the many places it grows in the United States. Its a tall wildflower. Easily identifiable because it can get up from 1 to 9 feet tall and is so brightly colored.
Alaska is home to many wonders. Fireweed is nothing special: just a pretty weed growing all over the place, you see it everywhere. What makes the weed noteworthy at all is the indication it brings it’s passerby’s.
You watch this stuff grow all spring and summer. Up there, you get as much done as you possibly can in those months. Things really change as the winter comes on and the days get dark.
That fireweed, at least to ancients, was like an indicator of the time change. You watch it bloom all the way up the stem and when blooms start nearing the top you know you had better have your winter preparations together.