Rosebay Willowherb

Epilobium angustifolium syn. Chamerion angustifolium, Chamaenerion angustifolium,
Other names: Blooming Sally, Fireweed, Great Willow Herb
Family: Onagraceae

A perennial that spreads by seed and creeping with fleshy white rhizomes. When it is in flower in large clumps it makes a striking feature (this gives rise to name Fireweed when a large stand is viewed from afar). The following fluffy seedheads make another show.

Introduced from North America in the 18th and 19th centuries as a garden plant, its invasive behaviour has allowed it to become naturalised. The young leaves have been used by indigenous North American tribes fresh in a salad or as a cooked vegetable. Young shoots can be prepared like asparagus and the pith of the stems is used to thicken soups and stews. The leaves make a tobacco substitute and a poultice will draw out infections. Recent studies have shown it to be anti-inflammatory with uses for nappy rash, sunburn and as a mouthwash. The pollen is claimed to produce good quality honey.

The pointed, lanceolate, hairless leaves are arranged alternately on the smooth stem; they turn red and yellow in autumn before the whole topgrowth dies back. From June to August violet or rose-purple flowers open gradually from the base of the racemes and the four petals are slightly notched. The long slender friut capsule matures to split lengthwise with four reflexed valves containing small seeds covered with white silky hairs that are carried away on the slightest breeze

Height - up to 120 cm.

Rosebay Willowherb is the main food-plant of the Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar.

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