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Marsh Willowherb

Epilobium palustre

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Onagraceae (Willowherb)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
120 centimetres tall
Bogs, ditches, fens, marshes, meadows, swamps, wasteland, waterside, wetland.

Pink, 4 petals
Pale pink, lilac or sometimes white flowers, about 1cm across. The petals are notched. Club-shaped stigmas. Pollinated by bees.
A long, tubular but 4-parted, hairy capsule. 4 to 9cm long.
Narrowly oblong leaves, tapering at both ends. The leaves are either untoothed or scarcely toothed. The leaves appear in opposite pairs and each leaf measures up to 9cm in length. The stems are round in cross-section, without any ridges. Perennial.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Epilobium palustre is a species of willowherb known by the common name marsh willowherb. This plant has a circumboreal distribution, and can be found farther south in the United States, Canada, and northern Europe. It is a perennial herb growing up to 0.4 meters tall from a creeping root system. Its leaves are oppositely arranged, oval to lance-shaped, and smooth-edged. The flowers are white or pale pink and have four petals. It blooms between June and September. This species grows in wet habitats such as marshes and wet meadows.


Marsh Willowherb (Epilobium palustre) is a beautiful and important species of wildflower that can be found in wetlands and marshy areas throughout the northern hemisphere. This perennial plant is a member of the Onagraceae family and is closely related to other well-known wildflowers such as fireweed and evening primrose.

One of the most distinctive features of marsh willowherb is its tall, slender stems which can grow up to 4 feet in height. The leaves of this plant are lance-shaped and are arranged alternately along the stem. In the summer, the plant produces spikes of delicate pink or purple flowers that are a favorite of pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Despite its beauty, marsh willowherb is often overlooked and undervalued, but it is an important species for many reasons. It is a key component of many wetland ecosystems, providing habitat and food for a wide range of animals and insects. For example, the caterpillars of several species of moths feed on the leaves of marsh willowherb, while the flowers provide a valuable source of nectar for pollinators.

In addition to its ecological importance, marsh willowherb also has a long history of use by humans. For example, the plant has been used medicinally for centuries to treat a range of conditions, including respiratory problems and skin irritations. In some cultures, the plant was also used to make a tea that was believed to have a calming effect on the mind and body.

Despite its many benefits, marsh willowherb is threatened by a number of factors, including the loss of wetland habitats due to human activities such as urbanization, agriculture, and mining. Climate change is also having an impact on this species, as rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are altering the conditions in which it can survive.

It is important that we take action to protect marsh willowherb and other wetland species, not only for their intrinsic value but also for the vital ecosystem services they provide. This may involve measures such as the creation of new wetlands, the protection of existing habitats, and the implementation of sustainable land use practices.

Marsh willowherb is a beautiful and important species of wildflower that deserves our attention and protection. Whether we are appreciating its delicate flowers, supporting its role in wetland ecosystems, or benefiting from its medicinal properties, this species is an integral part of our natural world and should be cherished and preserved for future generations.

Aside from its ecological and cultural importance, marsh willowherb is also a fascinating plant from a scientific perspective. For example, the plant is capable of reproducing both sexually, through the production of seeds, and asexually, through the growth of new shoots from underground root systems. This ability to reproduce in multiple ways gives marsh willowherb a high degree of resilience and allows it to quickly colonize new areas and adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Another interesting aspect of marsh willowherb is its response to fire. This plant is able to quickly colonize burned areas due to its large seed bank and its ability to sprout from its underground root system. This makes it a key species in the restoration of wetland habitats that have been damaged by fire, helping to prevent erosion and provide food and shelter for wildlife.

In addition to its resilience, marsh willowherb is also a hardy species that can withstand harsh growing conditions. For example, it is able to tolerate high levels of salinity, which makes it an important species in coastal wetlands that are exposed to salt spray from the sea. The plant is also capable of growing in waterlogged soils, making it a common sight in marshes and swamps.

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the cultivation of marsh willowherb for ornamental purposes. The plant is easy to grow from seed and is prized for its delicate flowers and long, slender stems. It is also a good choice for gardeners who are interested in attracting pollinators, as the flowers provide a valuable source of nectar.

Marsh willowherb is a truly remarkable plant that offers a wealth of benefits to humans, wildlife, and the environment. Whether you are a botanist, ecologist, gardener, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, this species is well worth learning about and appreciating.

Marsh willowherb is also a valuable species for research and education. For example, it is commonly used in studies of plant ecology and evolution, as its ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually provides valuable insights into the mechanisms of plant reproduction. In addition, the plant is a popular subject for teaching and demonstration, as its tall stature and distinctive flowers make it easy to identify and study in the field.

Another area where marsh willowherb is making a significant impact is in the field of phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is the use of plants to remove or neutralize pollutants from the environment. Marsh willowherb is one of a number of species that has been shown to be effective in removing pollutants such as heavy metals from contaminated soils, making it an important tool in the remediation of contaminated sites.

In recent years, there has been growing recognition of the importance of wetlands and the species that inhabit them, including marsh willowherb. Wetlands are critical habitats that provide numerous benefits to both wildlife and humans, including water filtration, flood control, and the support of diverse and productive ecosystems. Marsh willowherb is a key species in these habitats, and its protection and conservation is essential to maintaining the health and productivity of wetland ecosystems.

Finally, it is worth mentioning the role of marsh willowherb in the restoration of degraded habitats. This species is often used in the restoration of wetlands and marshes that have been damaged by human activities such as urbanization, agriculture, and mining. By planting marsh willowherb, we can help to restore degraded habitats, support the recovery of native species, and promote the health and resilience of these important ecosystems.

In conclusion, marsh willowherb is a species that has much to offer, from its beauty and cultural significance to its ecological and scientific importance. Whether you are an expert or a beginner, this species is well worth exploring and appreciating, and is a valuable asset to our natural world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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