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Rosebay Willowherb

Chamerion angustifolium

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Onagraceae (Willowherb)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, fields, gardens, grassland, heathland, marshes, meadows, moorland, mountains, roadsides, rocky places, scrub, towns, wasteland, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Purple, 4 petals
4 petalled reddish-purple flowers, unequal in shape, up to 3cm across. Long reddish sepals, in showy spikes.
Many-seeded fruit pods, or capsules. The fruit pods are slender and pinkish-purple in colour. They stand erect and the pods split open later in the year, leaving the brown seeds to be dispersed. The seed has a fluffy tuft of white hair attached which helps the wind disperse it.
The leaves are spirally arranged up the single upright stem. Their margins are toothless. The leaves are narrow with pointed tips and are pinnately veined. The leaves resemble willow leaves.
Other Names:
Blood Vine, Blooming Sally, Bomb-site Weed, Bombweed, Common Fireweed, Fireweed, Fireweed, Flowering Willow, French-willow, Great Willowherb, Narrow-leaved Fireweed, Perennial Fireweed, Persian Willow, Purple Rocket, Railway Chrysanthemum, Rose Bay Willowherb, Rosebay Willow, Singerweed, Spiked Willowherb, Wickup.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Chamerion angustifolium, commonly known as fireweed, is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant in the willowherb family Onagraceae. It is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere and can be found in meadows, grasslands, and on disturbed sites, such as roadsides and burned areas. The plant can reach up to 2-5 feet tall, with smooth stems that are round or somewhat angular. Its leaves are long and narrow, and they are arranged in an opposite pattern on the stem. It produces a showy, terminal inflorescence of magenta-pink flowers that bloom in late spring to summer. The flowers are pollinated by bees and other insects, and the plant reproduces by seed. The young leaves, shoots and flowers of fireweed are edible, and the flowers can be used to make fireweed jelly.


Rosebay Willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium), also known as fireweed, is a beautiful and resilient wildflower that is found throughout the northern hemisphere. With its tall, pink spikes of flowers and narrow green leaves, rosebay willowherb is a common sight in disturbed areas such as burn sites, logging roads, and disturbed soils.

One of the most interesting facts about rosebay willowherb is its ability to colonize disturbed areas quickly. This is due to its long, deep taproot, which allows it to access water and nutrients even in nutrient-poor soils. Furthermore, rosebay willowherb produces large amounts of seeds that are dispersed by wind, allowing it to quickly spread and establish new populations.

In addition to its ability to colonize disturbed areas, rosebay willowherb is also highly valued for its medicinal properties. The plant contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, making it useful for treating a variety of conditions such as headaches, menstrual cramps, and muscle pain. Rosebay willowherb has also been used to treat respiratory conditions such as coughs, bronchitis, and asthma.

Rosebay willowherb is not only useful for medicinal purposes, but it also provides valuable habitat for wildlife. The plant is a nectar source for a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Additionally, its seeds are a food source for birds, such as the willow tit, and small mammals like red squirrels.

Despite its many benefits, rosebay willowherb is often considered an invasive species in some areas. This is because its rapid colonization of disturbed areas can result in a decline in native plant species and reduce biodiversity. However, with proper management, rosebay willowherb can be an important component of a healthy and diverse ecosystem.

Rosebay willowherb is a fascinating plant with a wide range of benefits. From its ability to colonize disturbed areas to its medicinal properties, rosebay willowherb is a valuable species that deserves recognition and protection. Whether you are interested in its ecological significance, medicinal uses, or just appreciate its beautiful flowers, rosebay willowherb is definitely worth learning more about.

Another aspect to consider when discussing rosebay willowherb is its cultural significance. In many cultures, the plant has been used for a variety of purposes, from food to medicine to rituals.

For example, in some Native American cultures, rosebay willowherb was used to make a tea that was believed to have a calming effect and help with sleep. In other cultures, the plant was used to make dyes for clothing or baskets, or as a medicinal treatment for a variety of ailments.

Rosebay willowherb is also an important plant in the traditional medicine systems of many cultures, particularly in Europe and Asia. In Russia, for example, the plant was used to treat wounds and reduce inflammation, while in China it was used to treat digestive and respiratory problems.

Another fascinating aspect of rosebay willowherb is its association with natural disasters and recovery. The plant is often one of the first species to colonize areas affected by wildfires, making it a symbol of resilience and hope in the face of environmental stress. This is why rosebay willowherb is sometimes referred to as "fireweed."

In addition to its cultural and ecological significance, rosebay willowherb is also a beautiful and interesting plant to study. With its delicate pink flowers and tall, slender stems, it is a great addition to any wildflower garden or nature reserve. Whether you are a scientist, a gardener, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, rosebay willowherb is a plant that is well worth exploring.

It's also worth mentioning that rosebay willowherb is a versatile plant with a number of uses. In some cultures, the young shoots and leaves of the plant are used in salads or as a cooked vegetable, while the dried leaves can be used to make tea.

Rosebay willowherb is also a popular ornamental plant, due to its attractive flowers and ease of cultivation. The plant is hardy and can be grown in a range of soils and light conditions, making it a great choice for gardeners who want to add a pop of pink to their landscape.

In addition to its ornamental and edible uses, rosebay willowherb is also used in the production of cosmetics and natural remedies. For example, the plant's extracts are used in creams, lotions, and soaps, while its essential oils are used in aromatherapy.

One of the most interesting uses of rosebay willowherb is its potential as a biofuel crop. The plant's high growth rate, ability to grow in disturbed areas, and its use as a food and medicine make it an ideal crop for producing biofuels. Researchers are exploring ways to convert the plant's biomass into ethanol and other biofuels that can be used to power vehicles and generate electricity.

Overall, rosebay willowherb is a fascinating and versatile plant that has a wide range of uses and benefits. Whether you are interested in its cultural significance, medicinal properties, or its potential as a biofuel crop, there is much to discover about this amazing plant.

It is also worth noting that rosebay willowherb has an impact on the ecosystem, particularly in the areas where it is considered invasive. The plant can quickly dominate and outcompete native species, leading to a decrease in biodiversity and a reduction in habitat for wildlife.

However, this can also be viewed as an opportunity for restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands. Rosebay willowherb is often one of the first species to colonize areas disturbed by human activity or natural disasters, and its ability to quickly establish itself can provide a foundation for the reestablishment of a more diverse and stable ecosystem over time.

The key to using rosebay willowherb for restoration and rehabilitation is careful management. This can involve techniques such as controlled burns, selective herbicide application, and planting of native species to encourage a diverse and balanced ecosystem.

Rosebay willowherb is a plant with a rich and varied history, a wide range of uses, and a significant impact on the ecosystem. Whether you are interested in its cultural significance, its medicinal properties, or its potential as a tool for restoration and rehabilitation, rosebay willowherb is a fascinating and complex species that is well worth learning more about.

In terms of its distribution, rosebay willowherb is native to the northern hemisphere, ranging from Alaska to Greenland, and from northern Europe to northern Asia. It is also present in parts of South America and Australia, where it has been introduced as an ornamental plant.

The plant is often found growing in disturbed areas such as roadsides, burned areas, and along the edges of forests. It is also commonly found in wetlands and along rivers and streams, where it can form large stands.

In terms of its growth and biology, rosebay willowherb is a perennial herb that typically grows to a height of 1 to 2 meters. The plant has a simple, unbranched stem that is topped by a spike of pink, lilac, or white flowers that bloom in late summer and fall. The leaves are alternate, lance-shaped, and typically 2 to 8 centimeters long.

One of the unique features of rosebay willowherb is its ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually. The plant produces seeds, which can be dispersed by wind, water, or animals, as well as underground rhizomes, which can produce new shoots and help the plant spread rapidly.

In terms of its management and cultivation, rosebay willowherb is generally considered to be a hardy and adaptable plant that is easy to grow. However, it is also considered invasive in some areas, and can be difficult to control once established. In areas where it is considered invasive, management techniques such as controlled burns, selective herbicide application, and planting of native species may be used to control its spread.

Overall, rosebay willowherb is a fascinating and important species with a wide range of ecological, cultural, and practical uses. Whether you are a scientist, a gardener, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, there is much to learn and explore about this amazing plant.


Rosebay Willowherb filmed in Lancashire in early July 2022.


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