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The month of July is the fireweed period of the Yukon wildflower season. In many places throughout the northern hemisphere, fireweed is seen as more nuisance than asset, and there is good reason for that. There is nothing that can compete with fireweed when it comes to taking over things when other plant species have been wiped out, like when there’s a forest fire, for instance. Its common name, then, is a well-earned one, since fireweed spreads after a fire exactly like the chickweed spreads in my garden.

fireweed%202But its mauve beauty makes it too lovely for the weed label, don’t you think? Here in the Yukon, we treasure our fireweed, giving it honor as our official territorial flower. If you were to drive up the Alaska Highway during July—and you are invited—you’d be welcomed by roadsides pink with masses of these tall flowers.

In both the photo above, taken in Kluane National Park, and the woodland one on the left, only the blossoms along the bottom of the fireweed’s stalk are blooming. That’s because the blooms on this flower start at the bottom and move upward toward the top as summer progresses. Yukoners say that when the blossoms reach the top of the fireweed, summer is over, and that’s about right.

I’ve been told that honey made mostly from the nectar of fireweed is especially delicious, but I’ve never tried it, so I can’t vouch for it. Some people pick the very young shoots and leaves of the fireweed to use as salad greens or a cooked vegetable. I haven’t tried that, either. I have tried fireweed tea, which is made from the dried leaves, and found it much too bitter for me. So I’ll skip the harvesting altogether and continue to enjoy this year’s fireweed for  it’s delicate pink beauty.

Previous wildflower posts: 

Photos by Andrew Stark. Click for larger views.

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Reader Comments (3)

It is a beautiful flower, Rebecca. And thanks for the invite!

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy

We have a lot of fireweed here on the Island too.

I love the mountains in the distance - very beautiful!

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterIslandsparrow

The fireweed photo is now my desktop photo. It is a beautiful flower.

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

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