"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fireweed Fields Forever

Notice anything different about this blog today? Notice the blushing pink color of the template. No, I'm not still blushing about all the nice things Beth at Switched at Birth had to say about me yesterday. I decided to change the template color in honor of today's subject--the fireweed.

Alaska's state flower is the forget-me-not, a tiny blue and gold blossom. I suppose it was chosen because of its colors--the same colors of the state flag. But, the incredible fireweed could also have been honored. So....

...let me take you down to Fireweed Fields forever....

Fireweed along Sixmile Creek, Silvertip

From early July into September, the tall stalks of fireweed color the landscape magenta. Spread by tiny brown seeds covered with fluffy down, the seeds float on the breeze and land everywhere--even up your nose. When walking through a patch of seeding fireweed while moose hunting in September, it's best to hold your breath or you'll soon be sneezing and alerting every moose in the area to your presence.

Fireweed also spread with thick underground roots, and one plant can become a large bush of fireweed.

, A fireweed bush in my yard.

Fireweed seeds require light to germinate. They can live many years in the soil. Then, when the natural groundcover is disturbed, the seeds germinate. It is usually the first plant to colonize a burned area after a forest fire, hence its name.

Fireweed and a wildfire smoke-obscured sun.

Although it is a beautiful plant, many gardeners prefer not to cultivate it in flower beds, because it will soon crowd out everything else.

Close-up of fireweed.

Fireweed fields at Tern Lake.

It is especially noticeable on mountainsides where avalanches have knocked down trees. In the fall, these areas will be maroon and burgundy as the fireweed "tops out" and the plants become those colors. As the other vegetation turns autumn colors, the mountainsides resemble vast Persian carpets.

Closer view of one the fields at Tern Lake.

Native Americans used sprouts of spring fireweed for food. In Alaska, syrups, jellies, honey, and candies are made from it. The Dena'ina, an Native Alaskan group, used the cut root as a poultice to draw infection from boils and cuts. Because it rapidly takes over areas where the ground has been disturbed, it also healed the spot below, where an RV had run off the highway. I cleaned up a number of bags of debris from this wreck site a couple years ago--even pulling clothes hangers out of the trees.

The healing power of fireweed at crash site.

Everywhere you look this time of year, there is fireweed.

Gravel bar with fireweed on Sixmile Creek, Silvertip.

The stalks can grow to eight feet tall, as in the field below. Local lore says when the fireweed blooms all the way to the top of its stalk, or "tops out." winter is six weeks away. I couldn't get this entire field in the shot.

Fireweed fields forever...


  1. A-ha! So it's fireweed. I saw it on my trip back home but didn't know what I was admiring. The photos are fabulous, Gully.

  2. Great photos and interesting narrative.


  3. I figured the pink was because you read the hot-selling book "How Not To Look Old" by Charla Krupp, in which she suggests PINK for lipstick rather than red or orange. I know this because someone (allegedly a friend. . .) gave me this book! Hmmmn.

    The vivid colors of Nature just can't be beat. Those fireweed are gorgeous.