Fireweed, Vancouver Island, BC
Fireweed, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

Fireweed, also known as Willow Herb, can be found in every Canadian province and territory. It is usually one of the first plants to grow and bloom on land devastated by logging or fire. It is a  1.5 m tall perennial covered with 2.5 cm pink flowers. The name originated because it’s a pioneer plant that grows first on a fire burnt area.

Excellent to enhance a woodland or riparian site, but does excellent anywhere there is adequate moisture. It is more of an English garden perennial.

First Nations used it externally for burns and other skin conditions and drank it as a tea for gastrointestinal and bronchial problems. Many early settlers from Europe already used a native European version of the plant for similar purposes and so quickly accepted the North American plant. It has been found to contain several chemical compounds with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

One has been patented by a Canadian company and is now being marketed as an anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory ingredient for skincare products

Fireweed, Vancouver Island, BC
Fireweed, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

Researchers are also investigating fireweed as a possible acne treatment. Another line of investigation is exploring whether it has any value as a treatment for prostatitis since some related European species are being used for this purpose. It grows in all the BC coastal regions.

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