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Great Willowherb

Epilobium hirsutum

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Onagraceae (Willowherb)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
175 centimetres tall
Ditches, fens, fields, grassland, heathland, marshes, meadows, moorland, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, wasteland, waterside, wetland.

Pink, 4 petals
4 pinkish-purple notched petals. Stigmas have 4 lobes. Our largest flowered and most distinctive Willowherb.
Long tubular fruit capsules with seeds enclosed. The fruit capsule has 4 valves.
The leaves are simple and are arranged opposite one another along the stems. They are stalkless, linear and heavily toothed. Very hairy. The hairs are soft to touch.
Other Names:
Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Codlins-and-Cream, European Fireweed, Great Hairy Willowherb, Hairy Willowherb.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Epilobium hirsutum is a flowering plant belonging to the willowherb genus Epilobium in the family Onagraceae. It is commonly known as the great willowherb, codlins and cream, or hairy willow-herb. It is native to North Africa and Eurasia, and is an aggressive invader in North America. The overall plant is covered with fine soft hairs, and the leaf arrangement is mostly opposite. The flowers are pink or purple and bloom in late summer. It is used medicinally for its antinociceptive activity, and has been studied in the context of its effects on the cardiovascular system.


Great Willowherb, also known as Epilobium hirsutum, is a species of flowering plant in the Onagraceae family. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa but has been introduced to many other parts of the world as an ornamental plant or through human activity.

Great Willowherb is a tall, upright plant that can grow up to 1.5 meters in height. It has hairy leaves and stems, and its bright pink or purple flowers bloom from June to August. The plant is a favorite among pollinators, especially bees and butterflies, who are attracted to its nectar-rich flowers.

Aside from its ornamental value, Great Willowherb has a number of medicinal properties. The plant has been used for centuries to treat various ailments, including respiratory problems, skin conditions, and digestive issues. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties make it an effective remedy for a range of conditions.

In addition to its medicinal value, Great Willowherb is also an important food source for many wildlife species. Its seeds are an important food source for birds, while its leaves and stems are consumed by rabbits, deer, and other herbivores.

Despite its many benefits, Great Willowherb is considered an invasive species in some parts of the world, particularly in North America. Its rapid growth and ability to spread quickly have led to it displacing native plant species and disrupting local ecosystems. It is important to be mindful of its potential impact on the environment when planting Great Willowherb in areas where it is not native.

Great Willowherb is a beautiful and versatile plant with a long history of medicinal use. While it can be an invasive species in some parts of the world, it remains an important food source for wildlife and a valuable source of natural remedies. Whether grown for its ornamental value or for its medicinal properties, Great Willowherb is an important plant that deserves to be appreciated and protected.

Great Willowherb is a hardy plant that is relatively easy to grow and maintain. It prefers damp soils and full sun, and it can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, from moist meadows to rocky slopes. In areas where it is not invasive, it can be an excellent addition to a wildflower garden or a naturalized area.

In traditional medicine, Great Willowherb has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including coughs, colds, and other respiratory problems. The plant's anti-inflammatory properties make it an effective remedy for skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis, and its astringent properties help to soothe digestive issues such as diarrhea and indigestion.

The plant's medicinal properties are due in part to its high content of phytochemicals, including flavonoids, tannins, and alkaloids. These compounds provide Great Willowherb with its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Great Willowherb has a number of other uses. For example, it can be used as a natural dye, producing a bright pink or purple color when the flowers are boiled with an alkaline substance such as lye. Its fibrous stems have also been used to make baskets, mats, and other woven items.

Great Willowherb is a versatile and valuable plant that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties and other uses. Whether grown for its ornamental value, its medicinal properties, or for other reasons, Great Willowherb is an important and deserving species that should be protected and appreciated.

Another important aspect to consider about Great Willowherb is its ecological significance. This plant is a pioneer species, meaning it is one of the first to colonize newly disturbed areas such as riverbanks, roadsides, and disturbed habitats. Great Willowherb's ability to quickly establish itself in these areas helps to prevent erosion, stabilize the soil, and provide a foundation for other species to establish themselves. This process is known as succession and is critical for the recovery and restoration of damaged habitats.

In addition to its role in succession, Great Willowherb also provides important habitat for many species of wildlife. Its nectar-rich flowers provide a vital food source for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, while its seeds are an important food source for birds such as goldfinches and buntings. The plant also provides important cover and nesting sites for small mammals, reptiles, and insects.

Despite its ecological importance, Great Willowherb is often viewed as a weed by many landowners and land managers. This is due in part to its rapid growth and ability to spread quickly, which can lead to it becoming dominant in certain habitats and outcompeting native species. However, it is important to recognize the value that Great Willowherb provides to the ecosystem, and to find ways to manage it in a way that balances its potential impact with its benefits.

In conclusion, Great Willowherb is an important and valuable species that has much to offer both humans and the environment. Whether grown for its ornamental value, its medicinal properties, or its ecological significance, it is a plant that deserves our attention and protection. By understanding its value and managing it in a responsible and sustainable way, we can ensure that this valuable species continues to thrive and provide benefits for generations to come.


Great Willowherb filmed in Lancashire in July and August of 2022.


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