An easy to identify plant usually found in large numbers with many flowers to make a salad pretty.
|Common Names||Rosebay Willowherb, Fireweed|
|Scientific Name||Chamerion angustifolium|
Long and lanceolate, green sometimes with a flush of red or a red leaf base.
The leaves of Rosebay Willowherb are unique in that the veins are circular and do not terminate at the leaf edges but form circular loops and join together. This can help with identification before the flowers appear.
The flower has four purple/pink petals and some say it resembles a rose, hence the name.
The seed pod is long, thin and browny red, it contains hundreds of tiny, silky haired seeds that the wind can carry a long way.
Bare soil, open woodland, paths, roadsides, gardens, waste ground and particularly on previously burnt ground.
Loosestrife, pictured, can look similar but with the different flowers and the unique leaf vein pattern of Rosebay Willowherb it should be hard to confuse theses plants.
Pleasant while the leaves are very young.
The very young shoots can be treated like asparagus and served with butter and lemon, the older leaves get very bitter.
Young leaves can be added to salads.
The soft inner part of the stem can be easily removed and used as a thickener for soups or stews.
The flowers can be used to brighten a salad.
Has been used in the treatment of whooping cough, hiccoughing and asthma.
Fireweed, one of its common names refers to the fact that Rosebay Willowherb will grow on burnt ground as the seeds can settle deep in the soil and remain viable for many years.
A tiny bit of root left in the ground will grow into a plant after many years if the soil is disturbed.
The hairy seeds gathered together make a great tinder for sparks or friction fires.
The hairs have been used as a fine clothing fibre.
Here in Russia, we love a “tea” made of fermented Rose-Bay. We call it “Иван Чай”. Fantastic taste an color.
I have heard that rosebay willowherb is highly toxic. I am confused, is this right?
The only research I can find says that it is toxic to horses not humans.
My horses love eating it.. and will actively look it out and eat it when out foraging in the hedgerow – they are still very much alive.. so not sure why people think it is toxic to horses
I can’t really help I’m afraid, I can find only one reference to it being toxic to horses and many with people saying their horses love it. My friends horse knows chervil from hemlock and will eat all the chervil right next to a hemlock plant without touching the hemlock, animals are usually quite good at avoiding poisons except during drought conditions when there is nothing else available. Does anybody else have any info on the toxicity to equines?
It used to be widely spread through ancient Slavic communities as a potent tea. Very good for prostate, male weakness etc. Better to drink fermented as it has a nice tea taste opposite to dried which has just a “dried herb” taste.
You can also make a lovely sweet syrup out of the flowers 🙂
Horses love rosebay willowherb. My Mum’s horse has been eating it for over 20 years – a real treat and he crosses the loaning to get it. Not toxic.
Can someone explain to me how to make a fermented tea from it? Thanks
Look up Ivan Chai (fireweed Tea). YouTube has good instructions how to make the tea. It tasty and fun to make. The process to make is not hard. I made my first batch this last year. I will definitely be making more. It is good for your immune system too.
Goats LOVE willow herb. At rural shows, you can see all the goatkeepers bring it in, to keep the goats happy. I am trying to het some growing on my garden for my own goats, but no luck so far. Definitely not toxic to goats.
The only evidence of any harm to goats from willow herb is a report of a goat getting bloated after eating some!
I have only read of a different weed called fireweed that is a weed with a flower that is yellow similar to a daisy that they say is toxic to horses. It is not the same plant as the tall fireweed plant with purple leaves that we have here in alaska.
There is a yellow-flowered plant in Australia, called fireweed, that is toxic to horses. Perhaps it’s the use of the name ‘fireweed’ for rosebay willowherb that has caused the confusion?
I believe the Australian fireweed is a type of ragwort, which is indeed toxic to horses but totally different to Chamerion angustifolium.
Bees loved it this year. There was a beautiful specimen in my garden but it seeded early due to the drought.