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broad-leaved willow herb
river beauty willowherb
Greenland: niviaqsiaq “young girl”
Chamerion latifolium (Most floras and US Databases list this as the scientific name – for more info on my use of Chamaenerion latifolium, see my note in Common Fireweed)
C. latifolium var. grandiflorum
C. latifolium var. megalobum
C. latifolium var. parviflorum
Duration – Growth Habit
Perennial – Forb/herb
Identification and Information
Dwarf fireweed is a short, pink-flowering perennial herb growing from a woody caudex with wiry roots. The caudex is 4-10 mm in diameter. The plant grows 5-30 cm high with clumped, unbranched stems. The leaves grow on the stems, alternate or opposite with a 0-2 mm petiole, and the basal leaves are usually brown. The cauline leaf blades do not have petioles and are elliptic or ovate to lanceolate-elliptic 25-45 mm long. Leaf margins and adaxial surface (top) are entire and glabrous, while the abaxial surface (underside) may be glabrous or have sparse hairs.
The inflorescences are erect racemes. There are two or more flowering stems per plant; the flowering stems also have leaves. They have 3-5 flowers per inflorescence. The dwarf fireweed flower is erect in bud, nodding when it opens, and rose-purple to pink. It has 4 narrow, dark sepals (purple), 10-16 mm long and 1.5-3.5 mm wide (oblong-lanceolate). The 4 larger, lighter-colored petals (rose-purple or pink) are obovate or oblong-obovate. The lower pair of petals are often smaller than the upper pair. Rarely, the petals may be white. The flower has 8 stamens with white or pink filaments and dark red anthers. The style is light pink to rose-purple, 4-7 mm long, and 4 stigma lobes (2-3.5 mm long) recurved at maturity. The seed capsules are 2.5-8 cm long.
Dwarf fireweed is the National Flower of Greenland where it is known by the name niviaqsiaq, meaning “young girl.”
For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.
The entire dwarf fireweed plant is edible. The flowers can be eaten raw in a salad as well as the greens that are a good source of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A. The leaves are sometimes cooked. In Greenland, the flowers and leaves are eaten raw with seal blubber. The seed pod is also edible before it becomes woody.
Health effects are not substantiated. The plants can be used to make tea, which is considered good for the stomach and may help relieve stomach aches and intestinal problems.
Distribution and Habitat
Chamaenerion latifolium is a widespread arctic-alpine (circumboreal distribution) species found in Alaska, Canada, and the western US, Greenland, Iceland, China, and Siberia. Curiously, it is not found in Scandinavia or Europe in general.
It usually lives in moist areas, such as gravelly or sandy river banks, river terraces, and flood plains (frequently along the gravelly braided rivers in Alaska). It can also be found near the base of talus slopes and in arctic or alpine regions where snowpack persists late in the spring/summer season.
|Rank||Scientific Name (Common Name)|
|Kingdom||Plantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)|
|Subkingdom||Viridiplantae (green plants)|
|Infrakingdom||Streptophyta (land plants)|
|Division||Tracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)|
|Subdivision||Spermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)|
|Family||Onagraceae (evening primroses, onagres)|
|Genus||Chamerion (or Chamaenerion) Raf. ex Holub – fireweed|
|Species||Chamerion latifolium (L.) Holub – dwarf fireweed|
References and Further Reading
Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg. 14
Classification and Taxonomy
Chamerion latifolium (L.) Holub Taxonomic Serial No.: 510758, ITIS Database
C. latifolium (L.) Holub, Native American Ethnobotonany Database
Map and Distribution
Chamerion latifolium (L.) Holub Published in: Holub. (1972). In: Folia Geobot Phytotax., 7(1): 86., GBIF Database
Description and Information
Chamaenerion latifolium (Linnaeus) Sweet Hort. Brit. ed. 2, 198. 1830., Flora of North America
Chamerion latifolium (L.) Holub, Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago