Perennial from coarse, running, rhizome-like roots, erect, usually simple-stemmed, 1-3 m, puberulent in the infl, often otherwise glabrous or nearly so; lvs alternate, numerous and crowded, lanceolate or lance-linear, to 1.5(-2) dm, sessile or subsessile; racemes terminal, elongate; fls many, pink-purple (white); pet 1-2 cm, short-clawed; hypanthium not prolonged beyond the ovary; style basally hairy; stigma deeply 4-cleft; fr 3-8 cm; 2n=36, 72, 108. Many habitats, especially moist soils rich in humus, often abundant after fires; circumboreal, s. to N.J., O., n. Ill., Nebr., and N.M. June-Sept. (Chamaenerion a.; C. spicatum) Ours represent the tetraploid var. canescens A. W. Wood, in contrast to the more northern, diploid var. angustifolium.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
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General: Perennial, colonial, 0.5-2.5 m tall; stems solitary or clustered, erect, usually simple, often purplish, at least above; roots rhizome-like. Leaves: Numerous, crowded, cauline, alternate, lanceolate, lance- elliptic, or linear, 5-15 cm long, 0.5-3 cm wide, puberulent above, glabrous or nearly so and paler below, margins entire to obscurely and minutely dentate; blades sessile or nearly so. Flowers: Inflorescence a spike, nodding; floral tube 1.5-3 mm long, glandular-puberulent; sepals 1-1.5 mm long, reflexed at time of flowering; petals 1.5-3 mm long, white, fading to pink upon wilting; style surpassing the floral tube; flowers May-October. Fruits: Capsule, 3-8 cm long, slender, elongate, puberulent; seeds numerous, possessing a tuft of hairs 10-17 mm long, white to off-white. Ecology: Various habitats, especially moist soils, roadsides, montane slopes, meadows, often abundant after fire; 2100- 3500 m (7000-11500 ft); Apache, Coconino, Graham, Greenlee, and Navajo counties; widely distributed throughout North America. Notes: Fireweed looks like a robust Epilobium, but lacks a floral tube and has longer petals (1-3 cm). It sprouts readily from rhizomes following fire, hence the name. It is an important forage plant for wild ungulates, including elk, and is an important nectar producer. It has been used medicinally both internally and externally to reduce inflammation. The young plants are edible and eaten by members of many tribes, and the fibrous stems are used for cordage, thread, and nets. Editor: Springer et al. 2008