Common Fireweed – Chamaenerion angustifolium

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Alaska Wildflowers | Pink

Common Fireweed – Chamaenerion angustifolium

Common Fireweed

Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium

Common Names

common fireweed
great willowherb
rosebay willowherb


Epilobium angustifolium L.
Epilobium angustifolium ssp. angustifolium L.
Chamaenerion angustifolium (L.) Scop.
Chamerion spicatum (Lam.) Gray
Epilobium angustifolium var. intermedium (Lange) Fernald
Epilobium spicatum Lam.
Chamerion angustifolium var. angustifolium (L.) Holub

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Genus: Chamaenerion
Family: Onagraceae (Primrose)
Order: Myrtales
Full Classification



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Uses section for information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

Young leaves and shoots are the most often consumed parts of the plant. They can either be cooked or eaten raw, often added to a salad. Fireweed flowers and leaves can be made into a tea and are popularly made into jelly (high in vitamins A and C). The root is not as popular for consumption as it tastes bitter (better before the plant flowers). In Alaska, beekeepers often operate near fields of fireweed to make fireweed honey.

Common fireweed has numerous traditional uses as a food and as a medicine. It has been used as a dermatological aid, the leaves used as a laxative or gastrointestinal aid, and as a tuberculosis remedy.

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Identification and Information

Fireweed grows to be approximately 0.75 – 1.5 m (2.5 – 5 ft) tall. The inflorescence is subglabrous. The pink flowers lie on a raceme and are symmetrically spaced on the reddish stem. The flowers bloom progressively from the bottom to the top over the summer months before going to the cotton-like seed stage, producing up to 80,000 seeds per plant. Each flower is symmetrical about the vertical axis, with the two largest (roundish) petals at the bottom, two smaller (roundish) petals at the top, and four narrow sepals behind. The leaves are glabrous, cauline, long, narrow, and spirally arranged around the stalk.

Distribution and Habitat

Chamerion angustifolium subsp. angustifolium is widely distributed across Alaska and Canada, much of the northern United States, Greenland, and Eurasia. It’s most often found in mountainous regions and extends as far south as India and Bhutan.

Fireweed’s common name comes from the fact that it can revegetate quickly after forest fires. This is due to having deep roots that are well-insulated beneath soil from the heat of the fires. The plant typically lives in open meadows and at the edges of forests in well-draining soil.


RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (Plants)
SubkingdomViridiplantae (Green plants)
SuperdivisionEmbryophyta (Seed plants)
DivisionTracheophyta (Flowering plants)
ClassMagnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
FamilyOnagraceae (Evening Primrose family)
GenusChamerion Raf. ex Holub (fireweed)
SpeciesChamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub (fireweed)
SubspeciesChamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub ssp. angustifolium (fireweed)



Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg 14

Classification and Taxonomy

Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium  (L.) Holub, ITIS Database

Chamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub ssp. angustifolium fireweed, USDA Database


Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium, Native American Ehnobotany Database

Fireweed, Edible Wild Food

Description and Information

Fireweed, U.S. Forest Service – Plant of the Week

4a. Chamerion angustifolium subsp. angustifolium,

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