Plant Common Name
Commonly known as fireweed in North America, this pretty wildflower bears tall spikes of bright rose flowers in summer and fall. It is native across much of the northerly regions of the northern hemisphere where it thrives in moist ditches, old fields, open woods and along forest and stream edges. It is commonly called "fireweed" because this true pioneer species responds well to fire and is one of the first plants to seed in and thrive after a fire. It spreads by both seed and wide-spreading rhizomes and is so cold hardy it even grows well in Greenland. Until very recently it had the botanical name, Epilobium angustifolium, which was changed to Chamerion angustifolium; many references still refer to it by its old name.
Stems of alternate, willowy leaves appear in spring rising from broad, spreading clumps. The rhizomes extend down vertically up to 1.5 feet (0.5 meters), so they are difficult to dig up once established. Tall flower stems appear as early as early summer and can continue into early fall, depending on the regional climate. They can reach 3 to 9 feet (1 to 2.7 meters) and are lined with nodding reddish buds that open to show bright rosy magenta flowers subtended by reddish sepals. On rare occasion the flowers may be purplish or white. Following pollination by insects and hummingbirds, elongated capsules are produced that open to show many seeds with a tuft of long hairs at the ends. Each capsule can contain 300 to 500 wind-carried seeds that readily self-sow.
This is a true wildflower that is best grown in natural areas rather than garden spaces where it's sure to take over. It grows best in full to partial sun and moist, organic-rich soil. It is pH adaptable and can withstand many harsh growing conditions. Cut plants back in fall to reduce seed output, if desired.
In circumboreal regions, fireweed is an important forage plant for animals large and small; elk, bighorn sheep, and white and black-tailed deer feed on its leaves and chipmunks eat the seeds. Hummingbirds are one of many pollinating species and butterflies and many bee species also feed on the nectar and pollen of the flowers.
AHS Heat Zone
8 - 1
USDA Hardiness Zone
2 - 8
A1, A2, A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21
Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade
3'-9' / 0.9m - 2.7m
2'-5' / 0.6m - 1.5m
Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall
North America, United States, Canada, Northern Europe, Russia/Siberia, Asia
Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Average Water, Ample Water