Fireweed: Symbol of the North

By Dave Hanks

Spike of lavender loveliness – The spirit of the North Profuse in woods and byways–Lending voluptuous beauty to arctic summers Fireweed in all its glory – A true symbol of the North!

This wildflower gets its name from its penchant of growing in fire blackened areas. The striking blooms on its stalk start to bloom, in mid summer, in the middle of the stalk and progresses upwards, each bud blooming just above the one below it. When the whole spike is in bloom, the buds turn to cotton as summer ends. Indians say that you can tell how much summer is left by where the blooming has progressed on the spike.

It is the best known and most widespread wildflower in Alaska, because it grows in climates that have short, warm summers and cold winters. It’s often amid coniferous trees. Here in Cassia County, it can be seen in the Lake Cleveland area, which has a similar climate to that which I just described.

Fireweed produces oil that can be used as an astringent, tonic, cathartic, and emetic. The American Aborigines used this plant. Five to ten drops of the oil on sugar, in capsules, or in emulsion is the dosage. However, I wouldn’t try it. This very aggressive plant has the potential to become a problem – hence, weed is part of its name.

I came north – the far, far north to climax one of my dreams. The land is so vast – so utterly vast – it is endless, or so it seems. I’m insignificant against the vastness – It’s the call of the North!

Fireweed is one of nature’s beautifiers. It’s a flower in the forefront for providing beauty in areas that have been disturbed.

(In Mid-summer glory)