We all recognize the purple flowers of fireweed. In 1957 fireweed was chosen as the floral emblem of Yukon. We see this weed crossed under our Yukon coat of arms.
Fireweed is very hardy, just like us Yukoners! It produces fluffy umbrella-like seeds that will travel long distances on the wind plus it spreads with an aggressive root system. We see it in the ditches, on the hills and we have pulled it out of our gardens as it threatens to take over our lettuce and carrots and peas…. Or even our lawns!
The delicate flavour of fireweed jelly is a Yukon gourmet treat. Local Chef MIche Genest describes amazing summer appetizers with fireweed in her must have Northern Cookbook called The Boreal Gourmet. Yukon Herbalist Bev Gray makes creams from it because of its anti- inflammatory properties. She is author of the best-selling book Boreal Herbal. Our First Nations use fireweed for burns and drink it as tea to help with stomach or breathing issues.
Sometimes fireweed is stunningly beautiful. Take a look at Yukon photographer Richard Hartmier’s incredible fireweed photo “After the Burn” . He has made beautiful art cards by getting oh so close up to the 2-3cm flowers. Fritz Mueller has a delightful fireweed poster. And ceramic artist Patrick Royle has made his signature fireweed stoneware for over 25 years.
Most descriptions indicate that it is called fireweed because it is the first plant to appear after a forest fire. (In fact, in Britain, it became known as bombweed because it would show up in bomb craters). But for many of us, fireweed earns it name in the fall when its leaves turn yellow and red and orange and it lights up the valleys and the forest floors. Fireweed gives us flashes of sizzling colour to warm us in preparation for our long, white and grey winters.
Other names for Fireweed:
Chamerion angustifolium (Latin)
Huk“an gųą (Northern Tutchone)
Nàkhela (Southern Tutchone)