Rosebay Willowherb

Jane Rogers sent an interesting picture today of a popular wild flower around Stalybridge. The photos were taken whilst walking stamp, Jane's dog, on the morning of 29th July 2015. Opening the email on my coffee break I decided to investigate (aka google) this well know weed.

Chamerion angustifolium, or more commonly rosebay willowherb, this common British name is from its passing resemblance of the flowers to roses and the leaves to those of bay, goes back in print to Gerard's Herball of 1597. It is shown on the flag of Yukon in Canada and is native to the Northern Hemisphere. It's prolific nature is partly due to the fact it grows just about anywhere and can colonize disturbed sites quickly and effectivly.

Scrape the outside of the root before roasting, be aware it can taste bitter, especially if it is from a mature plant. It is preferable to collect the plant before flowering and the brown central thread should be removed.

The native Alaskan, Dena'ina add fireweed to their dogs' food. Fireweed is also a medicine of the Upper Inlet Dena'ina, who treat pus-filled boils or cuts by placing a piece of the raw stem on the afflicted area. This is said to draw the pus out of the cut or boil and prevents a cut with pus in it from healing over too quickly.Also in Alaska, candies, syrups, jellies, ice cream and monofloral honey are made from fireweed. There is a distinctive spicey flavour to the honey.

In Russia, its leaves are used as tea substitute and were exported as Russian Tea. Koporye tea is still occasionally consumed though there is no commercial interest in it.

In Austria Chamerion angustifolium (Epilobium angustifolium) has been used in the traditional treatment of disorders of the prostate, kidneys, and urinary tract. This was done by taking the herb as a tea.

Rosebay willowherb is favoured by conditions after woodland clearance and in the early stages of coppicing but growth and flowering become restricted as the tree canopy develops again. Rosebay willowherb is tolerant of acid and alkaline soils but does not grow in soils with poor mineral nutrition. It is usually absent from waterlogged soil but grows in wet conditions around ponds as well as on dry sandy heaths and chalk downs. Rosebay willowherb tolerates shade and a broad range of climatic conditions.

This information has been gleaned from various sources online and is for interest purposes only. The items mentioned herein have not been tested by the writer and should you decide to investigate them further please consult specialists in the field of alternative therapies and natural remedies. Next time you see the rosebay willowherb, remember a weed is only a plant, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sources: www.gardenorganic.org.uk; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamerion_angustifolium ; http://paulkirtley.co.uk/2013/rosebay-willowherb-taking-the-pith/

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