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ROSEBAY WILLOWHERB


Perhaps an association with the “scruffiness” of some of the sites it populates can lead to this flower being undervalued. Also known as Fireweed, it’s often the first plant to colonise waste ground, such as that left after a forest fire. Mine were on the old railway line east of town, and prior to the expansion of the railway network in this country it was quite rare. The flowers are often mentioned in British post-war literature, due to their ability to pop up on bomb-sites (another name is Bombweed), and there’s a children’s novel set during the Blitz actually called “Fireweed”. In 2002 Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity, held a poll to choose the flower of London and Rosebay Willowherb was the winner. The seeds’ silky hairs are a very effective means of catching the wind for dispersal. Because it quickly establishes itself on disturbed land, the plant is used in land management: it reduces the risk of erosion, it’s good at recycling nutrients left in soil after a fire, and is also relatively fire-resistant. As my photo shows, the flowers are also popular with pollinators.


Photo by Pixabay

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