Montana Outdoors

August 16, 2012

Little Thompson Peak (2)

In the area burned by a major fire such as the one that engulfed the Thompson Peaks, one of the first signs of the natural regeneration process is the appearance of fireweed (Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium or Epilobium angustofolium). I will post photos of some of the burned area of the Chippy Creek fire next, but to start I think it’s fitting to celebrate this beautiful and very beneficial plant.

Wikipedia describes it quite well when it states: ” the name Fireweed derives from the species’ abundance as a coloniser on burnt sites after forest fires. Its tendency to quickly colonize open areas with little competition, such as sites of forest fires and forest clearings, makes it a clear example of a pioneer species. Plants grow and flower as long as there is open space and plenty of light, as trees and brush grow larger the plants die out, but the seeds remain viable in the soil seed bank for many years, when a new fire or other disturbance occurs that opens up the ground to light again the seeds germinate. Some areas with heavy seed counts in the soil, after burning, can be covered with pure dense stands of this species and when in flower the landscape is turned into fields of color.”

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

FireFireweed, Chamerion angustifoliumweed

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

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61 Comments »

  1. OMG, what photos! The flower Fireweed is overall in Finland from the South to the North. To me it is shocking to see those burned trees! Life is coming back slowly. I am very happy that You did present these photos. Thank You.

    Like

    Comment by Sartenada — August 16, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

    • I think it is very significant that fireweed is found there as well as here. It is surely a beautiful way to illustrate the beginning of the renewal of the huge life of a forest!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 12:03 am

  2. Beautiful photos. That’s one species that I do recognise because I’m sure it is the same plant that we have here in the UK.

    Like

    Comment by Jo Woolf — August 17, 2012 @ 1:16 am

    • I’ve read that it is native nearly everywhere in the temperate Northern Hemisphere. I can think of few plants that I would rather see in many parts of the world because of its colonizing ability.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

  3. I’ve heard about this wildflower and hope one day to see it in person. The last pictures in the set do a good job of explaining—even without your introductory words—the common name for the species.

    Steve Schwartzman
    http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com

    Like

    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — August 17, 2012 @ 4:12 am

    • It blooms in late summer and I always look forward to seeing it. It is a very special plant in our forests.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 9:55 pm

  4. So nice photos of the fireweed, that we actually have a lot in Norway too, but luckily no burned forests around here. By the way I saw in an other blog that you could make jam from fireweed flowers. But I haven’t tried yet.

    Like

    Comment by bentehaarstad — August 17, 2012 @ 4:31 am

    • I had not heard of making jam from the flowers, but I know they produce a lot of nectar. Perhaps I will have to try making some!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

  5. What wonderful examples these are of how Life persists, and how out of what appears to us to be devastation comes such beauty in abundance. The photo of that gnarly, knobby-kneed burned tree with the Fireweed close to it, is a really nice juxtaposition.

    Like

    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — August 17, 2012 @ 5:44 am

    • Nature’s way of providing beauty in most everything is fascinating to me. Fireweed is so beneficial in reclaiming damaged areas and does it so beautifully, and rainbows often follow thunderstorms. Seems to me that there is a message for us in there somewhere .

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:08 pm

  6. Isn’t that the perfect color for the flower that colonizes the burnt areas — so celebratory, such a sign of renewal!

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    Comment by Bo Mackison — August 17, 2012 @ 6:25 am

    • Yes, I think it is the perfect color for its mission. I wonder if the color may also be a special beacon to the insects that will be so vital to the proliferation of new life throughout the damaged areas.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

  7. I always enjoy the fireweed here. I see it on forest edge and roadside .. there are no burn areas near me. I have seen how it can grow abundantly even in the rocky conditions on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

    Like

    Comment by bearyweather — August 17, 2012 @ 6:27 am

    • Yes, it enjoys disturbed areas. I see it often along old logging roads too.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

  8. It certainly is a beautiful “weed” and judging by the comments, one that grows all over the world. It’s interesting to see the different stages of growth after a major fire.

    Like

    Comment by New Hampshire Gardener — August 17, 2012 @ 7:07 am

    • To aid in the recovery from a big fire, we plant a few trees sometimes. Nature plants flowers which attract insects and birds (and fireweed especially attracts deer and elk) all of which will help spread seeds over the area and provide the necessary shelter for the small seedlings of trees as they get started.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:24 pm

  9. Absolutely beautiful, so bright – I love the images of the fireweed against the burnt trees! What a wonderful flower. Such symbolism amidst these burnt lands.

    Like

    Comment by FeyGirl — August 17, 2012 @ 8:32 am

    • Interestingly too, fireweed is so large. It’s an immediately recognizable sign of the healing process.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:25 pm

  10. I hope it colonizes the gopher-devastated areas that are showing up in my yard! I’m clipping stems with seeds about to disperse and laying them wherever I see bare dirt. Maybe my yard will be as pretty as these pictures in a year or so!

    Like

    Comment by Kim — August 17, 2012 @ 8:32 am

    • Maybe you need bear grass! I’ve noticed in the big burn along the Reservation Divide there are huge areas of bear grass which exists very well along with the Columbian Ground Squirrels. It wouldn’t coexist with a lawn though! Gophers are tough little critters! I remember years of pocket gopher wars when I was in Arizona.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

  11. I have fireweed growing at the edge of the woods on my property. I planted the seeds many years ago, and each year the patch gets larger. They are delightful flowers!

    Like

    Comment by Margie — August 17, 2012 @ 8:32 am

    • It’s sure a pretty flower all right, but the woolly seeds don’t usually make them popular with gardeners.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

  12. Fireweed is prolific and showy, sometimes to the point of becoming invasive.

    Malcolm

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    Comment by knightofswords — August 17, 2012 @ 8:47 am

    • Well, as long as there is a damaged area they will try to cover it. They do get very thick and tall in a burned forest area, but then die back as the trees take over.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

  13. Beautiful photos, Terry…I only recently learned the name and the “behavior” of the plants. I see them virtually everywhere in our canyons here…sometimes in thick stands, and sometimes in sparce collections along creek banks. I hope to never have the occasion to marvel at them replenishing one of “my” burned-out mountainsides, although I know and understand that such is the way of things….

    Like

    Comment by seekraz — August 17, 2012 @ 9:33 am

    • When I see a forest fire I feel a sense of personal loss and yet as you said, it is the way of things. I see signs of fire everywhere I go in these forests. The tragedy now is that because fires have been so actively suppressed during the past century when fires occur now they are often catastrophic. And yet we say that we “manage” the forests!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

      • Yes, that seems to be a great mis-use of the word…with resulting tragedy…..

        Like

        Comment by seekraz — August 18, 2012 @ 7:38 am

  14. WOW this is a great series of such a beautiful flowering plant. I am so glad you shared these. I’ve been told of this plant, but I have always been in the areas too late in the season to see them. Truly spectacular!

    Like

    Comment by dhphotosite — August 17, 2012 @ 10:53 am

    • They are in full bloom right now in the higher elevations in this area and they put on quite a show!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:38 pm

  15. What a pretty wildflower it is!

    Like

    Comment by allbymyself09 — August 17, 2012 @ 11:43 am

    • I think it’s very pretty and it’s a big bold flower that doesn’t hide like many of the wildflowers do.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

  16. These are wonderful photos of fireweed. Isn’t nature amazing with her planning and saving of seeds? Fireweed is one of my all time favorite wildflowers.

    Like

    Comment by sandy — August 17, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

    • This is an amazing plant. It’s beautiful, and at the same time it’s a real work horse of the natural world.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

  17. What an interesting species of wildflower, the Fireweed, and this lovely and delicate flower adds beauty to the burned areas. Amazing.

    Like

    Comment by Anna Surface — August 17, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

    • It is fascinating and I find it reassuring as well. When in areas like tis I have to sit for awhile and just look and think about the way it all works.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

  18. Just love these images!!

    Like

    Comment by zannyro — August 17, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

    • I wonder just how many photos of them I have in my library by now, and yet each year I find new excitement when I see them.

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      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:48 pm

  19. What a stunning set of photos. I haven’t seen fireweed, but I did see a pretty big fire in Concord this evening (I think it was in an abandoned building, but not sure).

    Like

    Comment by jomegat — August 17, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

    • There have sure been a lot of fires all over this year. When I was on the fire department I least liked structure and house fires.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

  20. Incredible beauty in such a desolate area…. To come across a field of these must really be an experience on the power of life itself. I’ve often read about these lovely plants, but these are the first photos I’ve seen that really show their absolute beauty. Many thanks.

    Like

    Comment by snowbirdpress — August 17, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

    • Yes it is quite an experience and these scenes are repeated continually throughout the entire area of the burn which in this fire was 150 square miles.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 11:05 pm

  21. That’s really interesting that they are there to colonize in the beginning and then die out as the trees grow back…although it sounds as though they are pretty pervasive in many areas even when fire has not occurred. Nature sure does some remarkable things.

    Like

    Comment by Candace — August 17, 2012 @ 9:53 pm

    • Yes, I frequently see them along old logging roads and in the fringe areas of old clear cuts as well.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 17, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

  22. For some reason, the flowers spreading out across the land reminded me of being allowed to chose which “pretty bandaid” would be used to cover my cuts or scrapes when I was a kid. Practically and aesthetically, the flowers aid in the healing of the land. They’re beautiful, and wonderful. And I noted your comment re: land mangement practices. Controlled burns are being used in the marshes and preserves here on the coast, far more often than previously. A fellow who’s been in the area for decades says it really has helped to increase plant diversity, among other benefits. Even hurricanes have their benefits, though human meddling has made them more destructive for the land than in the past.

    Like

    Comment by shoreacres — August 18, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

    • There was a story today in the Missoula newspaper that disclosed that according to Forest Service Deputy Chief Jim Hubbard this year the Forest Service has decided to do everything they can to snuff out every fire as soon as they can because it is cheaper to put them out than to monitor them as ongoing fires. Personally, I have very little confidence in the management of the Forest Service and would like to see more of an analysis on that.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 18, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

  23. I’ve never seen fireweed here in AZ (although it might be up higher) but there is another lovely purple flower – more of a periwinkle color that grows close to the ground after the fire. I saw it up around Globe and I loved it.

    Like

    Comment by Tammy — August 18, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

    • I don’t seem to remember seeing fireweed in Arizona either, although I’m sure it it there. I also don’t remember seeing another pink flower like the one you mentioned, but I left there nearly 20 years ago.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 18, 2012 @ 11:36 pm

  24. Hi Montucky, Beautiful pictures! That flower is pretty, useful to the wildlife, and encouraging to people who see life after blackness. Have a fantastically nice Sunday tomorrow!

    Like

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — August 18, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

    • Thanks wildlifewatcher! I hope you have a great Sunday too!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 18, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

  25. I’ve never seen or heard the story of fireweed before… thank you for sharing, both are beautiful!

    Like

    Comment by kcjewel — August 19, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

    • It’s an interesting plant, isn’t it! And such a part of the life of the forests.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 19, 2012 @ 9:47 pm

  26. What gorgeous…glorious color and light. Exquisite!!!

    Like

    Comment by Marcie — August 21, 2012 @ 6:17 am

  27. Those spots of pretty purple sure make a lovely sight amidst the starkness. Very nice!

    Like

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — August 21, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

  28. Is the fireweed blooming now? Even in northern Quebec it was at the end of its flowering period in early July. Curious. But the photos. Some of the best I’ve seen of this plant. You have captured it well.

    Like

    Comment by Wild_Bill — August 22, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

    • These photos were taken on August 3 and I really haven’t been out much since. They are probably still blooming at the higher elevations.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 22, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

  29. What an absolutely beautiful plant. A perfect example of something wonderful rising out of the ashes. Nature is amazing!

    Like

    Comment by Watching Seasons — August 25, 2012 @ 7:01 am

    • What nature does is incredible and at the same time it can be beautiful.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 25, 2012 @ 8:01 am

  30. I looked at the first photograph and marvelled at the beauty of the flowers, than I looked at the other pictures and immediately recognised it. We call it ‘rosebay willowherb’ in the UK, and I was photographing it in small stands here over the summer. I’m not surprised it’s the first to recolonise after a fire, it’s indestructible.

    Like

    Comment by Finn Holding — September 2, 2012 @ 1:55 am

    • Yes, it’s a robust, hardy plant! Interesting too that after the new trees grow up it quits the area but leaves seeds behind for the net fire.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 2, 2012 @ 9:43 pm


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