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Great Willow Herb Epilobium angustifolium

Previously known as:

  • Chamerion angustifolium
  • Epilobium angustifolium
Phonetic Spelling
ep-ih-LOW-bee-um an-gus-tee-FOH-lee-um
Description

Formerly known as Epilobium angustifolium, it was moved to the genus Chamerion due to its differences from the Epilobium genus.  The Greek word chamai translates to dwarf, while nerion means oleander, referring to the foliage looking like the leaf of an oleander.  The Latin words angustus (narrow) and folium (leaf) again reference the foliage, which is a narrow leaf.

Fireweed is a rhizomatous perennial wildflower that is easy to grow in full sun to partial shade, high organic matter, and well-drained soil.  It can struggle in our hot southern summers, requiring afternoon shade and moist soils and does best in the mountain region of the state.  It is found in a variety of areas including roadsides, clearings, ravines, fields, pastures, along streams and open woods.  The common name comes from its propensity to be the first plant to appear after fires. It will spread by both seeds and rhizomes, creating large patches that may be classified as weedy.

Plant in informal areas of the landscape including meadows or woodland gardens, in borders, or massed in rock or cottage gardens.  To encourage more blooming remove spent flowers before they go to seed.  Propagation can be accomplished through division in the spring or fall.  

As well as producing edible stems, flowers, and leaves, this plant has many other uses.  Fibers obtained from the stems can be used to make cords and ropes.  The seed hairs that are cotton like are used as stuffing or as tinder for a fire.

Insects. Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Snails and slugs are occasional visitors.  Powdery mildew, rust, and leaf spot are occasional problems.  The wind-dispersed seeds can make fireweed weedy and aggressive.  

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#perennials#wildlife plant#moths#weedy#honey bees#nectar plant#fall interest#cottage garden#mass planting#aggressive#herbaceous#airy#summer flowers#herbaceous perennials#naturalizes#rock garden#English garden#edible garden#edible leaves#wildflower garden#billowy#poor soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#host plant#non-toxic for cats#woodland garden#edible#butterflies#butterfly#butterfly garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#perennials#wildlife plant#moths#weedy#honey bees#nectar plant#fall interest#cottage garden#mass planting#aggressive#herbaceous#airy#summer flowers#herbaceous perennials#naturalizes#rock garden#English garden#edible garden#edible leaves#wildflower garden#billowy#poor soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#host plant#non-toxic for cats#woodland garden#edible#butterflies#butterfly#butterfly garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Epilobium
    Species:
    angustifolium
    Family:
    Onagraceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Older stems have been used to make twine and fishnets
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Temperate northern hemisphere
    Distribution:
    AK , MT , WA , WY Canada: BC , NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC , SK , YT
    Wildlife Value:
    Honeybees are attracted to the flowers and the nectar from fireweed makes delicious honey. Serves as a host plant for several species of lepidoptera, which includes butterflies and moths. Attractive to wildlife.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Buffer
    Easy to Grow
    Screening
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Edibility:
    Young shoot tips, flower stalks and leaves can be cooked and eaten. a tea with a sweet taste can be made from its dried leaves.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Wildflower
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3b, 3a, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6a, 7a, 7b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    The reddish-brown seed pod contains numerous seeds with a tuft of silky hairs at one end. Seeds are wind-dispersed.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Saucer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    1-1.5 in. deep pink to magenta-purple saucer-shaped flowers on an elongated, slender, drooping inflorescence; four roundish petals. Blooms in summer from the bottom to the top of the stem in terminal racemes.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    2"-8" in. long 3/4" wide willow-like lanceolate or linear leaves with pinnate veins. They are arranged alternately and spiral up the stem.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Reddish-green, unbranched, stiff, upright stems.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Fire
    Problems:
    Weedy