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SPECIES:  Chamerion angustifolium


SPECIES: Chamerion angustifolium
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Pavek, Diane S. 1992. Chamerion angustifolium. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. ABBREVIATION: CHAANG SYNONYMS: Chamaenerion angustifolium (L.) Scop. [231] Epilobium angustifolium L. Epilobium angustifolium subsp. angustifolium Mosq. Epilobium angustifolium subsp. circumvagum Mosq. Epilobium angustifolium var. canescens Wood Epilobium angustifolium forma albiflorum (Dum.) Haussk. Epilobium angustifolium forma spectabile (Simmons) Fern. [72,112,224,230] NRCS PLANT CODE: CHAN9 COMMON NAMES: fireweed common fireweed perennial fireweed narrow-leaved fireweed great willow-herb rosebay willow-herb blooming Sally TAXONOMY: The scientific name of fireweed is Chamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub [112] (Onagraceae). This is an extremely variable taxon with worldwide distribution [164]. Recognized subspecies are [112]: Chamerion angustifolium subsp. angustifolium Chamerion angustifolium subsp. circumvagum (Mosq.) Hotch LIFE FORM: Forb FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: None


SPECIES: Chamerion angustifolium
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Fireweed is a circumboreal native species and is found in all of the Canadian provinces [72,82,127,188].  It occurs throughout the United States except in the southeastern states and Texas [83,94,113,175,191].
Distribution of fireweed in North America. Map courtesy of the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.
   FRES10  White - red - jack pine
   FRES11  Spruce - fir
   FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine
   FRES14  Oak - pine
   FRES18  Maple - beech - birch
   FRES19  Aspen - birch
   FRES20  Douglas-fir
   FRES21  Ponderosa pine
   FRES22  Western white pine
   FRES23  Fir - spruce
   FRES24  Hemlock - Sitka spruce
   FRES25  Larch
   FRES26  Lodgepole pine
   FRES27  Redwood
   FRES36  Mountain grasslands
   FRES37  Mountain meadows
   FRES38  Plains grasslands
   FRES39  Prairie
   FRES44  Alpine

     AK  AZ  CA  CO  CT  DE  ID  IL  IN  IA
     KS  ME  MD  MA  MI  MN  MT  NE  NV  NH
     NJ  NM  NY  NC  ND  OH  OH  OR  PA  RI
     SD  TN  UT  VT  VA  WA  WV  WI  WY  AB
     BC  LB  MB  NB  NF  NT  NS  ON  PE  PQ

    1  Northern Pacific Border
    2  Cascade Mountains
    3  Southern Pacific Border
    4  Sierra Mountains
    5  Columbia Plateau
    6  Upper Basin and Range
    7  Lower Basin and Range
    8  Northern Rocky Mountains
    9  Middle Rocky Mountains
   10  Wyoming Basin
   11  Southern Rocky Mountains
   12  Colorado Plateau
   13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont
   14  Great Plains
   15  Black Hills Uplift
   16  Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

   K001  Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest
   K002  Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest
   K003  Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest
   K004  Fir - hemlock forest
   K005  Mixed conifer forest
   K006  Redwood forest
   K008  Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest
   K010  Ponderosa shrub forest
   K011 Western ponderosa forest
   K012 Douglas-fir forest
   K013  Cedar - hemlock - pine forest
   K014  Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest
   K015  Western spruce - fir forest
   K017  Black Hills pine forest
   K018  Pine - Douglas-fir forest
   K019  Arizona pine forest
   K020  Spruce - fir - Douglas-fir forest
   K021  Southwestern spruce - fir forest
   K029  California mixed evergreen forest
   K093  Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
   K095  Great Lakes pine forest
   K096  Northeastern spruce - fir forest
   K110  Northeastern oak - pine forest
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest

     1  Jack pine
     5  Balsam fir
    12  Black spruce
    13  Black spruce - tamarack
    16  Aspen
    18  Paper birch
    20  White pine - northern red oak - red maple
    55  Northern red oak
    76  Shortleaf pine - oak
   102  Baldcypress - tupelo
   108  Red maple
   201  White spruce
   202  White spruce - paper birch
   203  Balsam poplar
   204  Black spruce
   205  Mountain hemlock
   206  Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir
   210  Interior Douglas-fir
   212  Western larch
   213  Grand fir
   216  Blue spruce
   217  Aspen
   218  Lodgepole pine
   223  Sitka spruce
   224  Western hemlock
   225  Western hemlock - Sitka spruce
   227  Western redcedar - western hemlock
   229  Pacific Douglas-fir
   230  Douglas-fir - western hemlock
   232  Redwood
   243  Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
   251  White spruce - aspen
   252  Paper birch
   253  Black spruce - white spruce
   254  Black spruce -  paper birch
   256  California mixed subalpine

Fireweed is abundant in coniferous forests, mixed forests, aspen parklands, 
grasslands, sylvotundra (i.e., area between treeless tundra and 
circumpolar coniferous forest), and muskegs [54,134,144,163,210]. 
It is a dominant species in many diverse riparian and upland seral
community types.  It is not useful for vegetation classification in some
areas because it is abundant in a wide variety of stands [128].
Fireweed is an indicator species in ruderal vegetation types in
Minnesota, Alaska, British Columbia, and Quebec [56,88,120,122].
Fireweed is a dominant species and is used in the following

(1)  Classification of the riparian vegetation of the montane and
     subalpine zones in western Colorado [16]
(2)  Phytogeographia Laurentiana. II. The principal plant associations
     of the Saint Lawrence Valley [56]
(3)  Vegetation of the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming, in relation to
     substrate and climate [59]
(4)  Montane zone vegetation of the Alsek River region, southwestern
     Yukon [61]
(5)  Classification, description, and dynamics of plant communities
     after fire in the taiga of interior Alaska [76]
(6)  Subalpine forb community types of the Bridger-Teton National
     Forest, Wyoming [85]
(7)  Vegetation types in northwestern Alaska and comparisons with
     communities in other Arctic regions [88]
(8)  Vegetation relationships among some seral ecosystems in
     southwestern British Columbia [122]
(9)  Ecosystem classification and interpretation of the sub-boreal
     spruce zone, Prince Rupert Forest Region, British Columbia [173]

Fireweed has numerous common associates.  Trees associated with fireweed
include Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), bur oak (Q. macrocarpa),
American hazel (Corylus americana), Alaska-cedar (Chamaecyparis
nootkatensis), and swamp black gum (Nyssa biflora) [22,53,69,153].

Common shrubs found with fireweed are snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus),
snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus), thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus),
salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), prickly rose (Rosa acicularis), hoary
willow (Salix candida), black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata), and
common juniper (Juniperus communis) [123,130,134,136,178,229].

Other postdisturbance species associated with fireweed are bluejoint
reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis), pinegrass (C. rubescens), purple
reedgrass (C. purpurascens), and Wyoming wildrye (Leymus flavescens)
[65,97,136,190,227].  In moister grasslands, fireweed occurs with sedges
(Carex spp.) and sailorcaps shootingstar (Dodecatheon conjugens) [210].
Pteridophyte associates are western swordfern (Polystichum minutum),
brackenfern (Pteridium aquilinum), and woodland horsetail (Equisetum
sylvaticum) [21,229].  Important bryophyte associates are common 
liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha) and fire moss (Ceratodon purpureus) [226].


SPECIES: Chamerion angustifolium
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Fireweed is a robust native perennial forb.  It has fine roots and rhizomes that extend down vertically to 17.7 inches (45 cm) from the plant, with most growing between 0 and 5.9 inches (0-15 cm) deep [103,154,161].  The single stems are from 3 to 9 feet (1-2.7 m) tall and may be very leafy [72,104].  Leaves are 2.8 to 5.9 inches (7-15 cm) long [72].  One plant may have 15 or more flowers [29].  Each flower produces a capsule with 300 to 500 seeds [72,196].  Seeds have a tuft of long hairs on one end [196].
Fireweed flowers. Image by Ron E Baniaga, courtesy of CalPhotos.
Fireweed seeds. Image by Gerald and Buff Corsi, © California Academy of Sciences.

Fireweed regenerates sexually and asexually.  Airborne seeds allow
fireweed to establish rapidly [93].  Hungerford [103] noted that an
opening in a canopy was not enough to ensure fireweed establishment.
Fireweed requires bare mineral soil in addition to high light for
germination [137].  Moisture supply is more stable and more nutrients
are available on a mineral soil seedbed [137].  Once established, it
forms large colonies via rhizomes and produces large amounts of seed

Vegetative Reproduction:  Vegetative reproduction is more prevalent than
sexual reproduction [29].  Fireweed may not flower every year in the
northern limits of its range or at alpine elevations in the southern
limits [43,185].

Fireweed readily sprouts from rhizomes following disturbance.  Fireweed
was a residual survivor on Mount St. Helens, Washington, following the
1980 volcanic eruption [143,152].  Shoots sprouting from rhizomes are
capable of very rapid growth; they may bloom within 1 month [195].
Fragmentation of rhizomes stimulates shoot production [41].  A
4-year-old rhizome was excavated and found to be 20 feet (6.1 m) long;
it had 56 perennating buds.  Rhizome length depends on soil fertility
and amount of competing vegetation present [104].

Sexual Reproduction:  Fireweed flowers can self-cross or outcross [29].
They are principally pollinated by insects [29].  Fireweed is a prolific
seed producer [41].  One plant may produce about 80,000 seeds per year
[196].  In seed traps placed on a burn in Saskatchewan, fireweed
represented 63 percent of all germinated seeds [11].  One year after the
Mount St. Helens explosion, 81 percent of seed collected in seed traps
were fireweed seeds [55].  Fireweed was one of the most abundant
colonizers on Mount St. Helens [143,152,158].

Seeds are nondormant and germinate over a variety of temperatures.  One
hundred percent of newly collected fireweed seeds germinated within 10
days [29].  Fireweed does not create a long-lived seed bank [10,110,146].
Most seeds lose viability after 18 to 24 months [29,43,87].  Optimum
germinating conditions are warm, well-lighted, and humid [29].  Seed
collected from subalpine (9,285 feet [2,830 m]) meadows in the Sierra
Nevada, California, gave 55 to 68 percent germination under day/night
temperature regimes of 62/55 degrees Fahrenheit (17/13 deg C) and 81/73
degrees Fahrenheit (27/23 deg C), respectively.  The lowest percent
germination (12 percent) was at 53.6/46.4 degrees Fahrenheit (12/8 deg
C) [37].  Broderick [29] reported similar germination rates; however, he
saw 86 percent germination at 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 deg C).

Fireweed seed hairs or plumes respond to humidity.  Increased humidity
causes a decreased plume diameter which results in reduced loft [55].
This increases the chance that seeds are deposited in places with
moisture adequate for germination.  Plumed seed has low rates (0.21 to
0.23 foot per second [0.065-0.069 m/s]) of fall in still air [196].
Using modified insect suction traps mounted on radio towers, Solbreck
and Andersson [196] found that 20 to 50 percent of the seeds sampled at
328 feet (100 m) in an air column above a burned forest in Sweden were
fireweed seeds.  Since the seeds were commonly aloft for 10 hours per
day, they suggested that the seeds traveled 62.2 to 186.5 miles (100-300
km) during that time.  Broderick [29] reported that the seed rain of
fireweed for all of northern Quebec was 3.7 seeds per square foot (40
seeds/sq m).

Fireweed tolerates a wide range of site and soil conditions, but it most
commonly occurs on disturbed ground [54,134,144,163,210].  It grows on 
disturbed areas such as cut-over or burned forests and swamps, avalanche 
areas, recently deglaciated areas, and riverbars [22,101,153,208].  Additional 
disturbed sites are highway and railroad rights-of-way, waste places, and old
fields [94,188].

In North America, fireweed occurs in maritime to strongly continental
climates with short, warm summers and long, cold winters [28,229].
Annual precipitation averages between 13 inches (330 mm) on the
north-central edge of its range and 134.7 inches (3,420 mm) on the west
coastal edge [4,28].

Fireweed occurs on soils that vary from thin layers above permafrost in
the subarctic regions to deep loams in the western United States [136].
Soil development ranges from clays and clayey loams to sandy loams to
unweathered parent material [4,73].  Organic matter may be low in
fireweed soils or very high and peaty [227].  Low soil pH may affect
plant fertility.  Fireweed grown in soil with pH 3.5 produced 80 percent
fewer seeds than plants grown in soil with pH 5.0 [29].  Fireweed may
occur in neutral soils [48,208].  Northern soils in which fireweed
occurs may be frozen 4 to 5 months or longer [29].

Fireweed occurs on flat to rolling topography or moderate to steep
slopes [12].  It is found from sea level to high alpine elevations
[89,185].  Mueggler [162] found no significant (p>0.05) effect of aspect
on the frequency of fireweed in burned areas in Idaho.

Fireweed is an important colonizer following vegetation disturbances in
temperate climates worldwide [46,157].  Although the role of fireweed as
an early seral species does not change, the length of time fireweed
populations are present varies among ecosystems.  Fireweed enters a
disturbed community and rapidly becomes abundant.  It may achieve a peak
in dominance within 2 to 3 years [43].  It starts low in frequency and
density if it must seed in from off-site [118].  Halpern [86] found that
after disturbance in Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests in
Oregon, fireweed cover peaked in year 7 and then slowly declined.

Fireweed populations can persist through vegetative reproduction 
if conditions are not conducive to flowering.  Depending upon 
surrounding vegetation, fireweed may create widely spaced colonies
with low stem densities [29].  In Alaska, ground that was covered 30
years by debris from oil exploration was cleared or burned [64].
Fireweed vegetatively colonized these areas at low frequencies and
cover.  In 20 study sites in Montana, Stickney [202] reported that
fireweed established with about 3 percent cover 1 year after
disturbance.  By the second year, it peaked at about 30 percent cover
and stayed around this amount for the next 8 years.

Fireweed is one of the first plants to enter a community during the
seedling/herb stage [3,50].  This may last 1 to 15 years in the Yukon
Territory [92].  Sometimes, it will persist into the pole stage [84].
Young forests differ in the range of microhabitats (i.e., variations in
light, nutrients, and moisture) available; fireweed will persist if a
stand is open [43].

Moore [157] stated that fireweed declined in successional communities
because soil conditions became unsuitable for growth as nutrients are
leached out.  However, other studies suggest that fireweed declines due
to the effects of competing vegetation [149,207].  Progressive changes
from open to closed canopy in a forest result in decreasing abundance of
fireweed [3,40,207].  Several studies report that fireweed is shade
intolerant [81,115,124,157,182,217].  However, it can exist in partial
shade with a corresponding reduction in productivity [200].  Shirley
[192] found that fireweed response to Norway pine (Pinus resinosa)
canopy cover was variable.  At 5 percent of total sunlight, fireweed
occurred with 62 percent frequency; at 10 percent of total sunlight,
fireweed occurred with 100 percent frequency [192].  Frequency of
fireweed plants declined to 50 percent at 45 percent of total sunlight
and then, increased to 100 percent frequency at 65 to 100 percent of
total sunlight.  Mueggler [162] found a significant (p<0.05) decrease in
fireweed frequency when tree canopy cover exceeded 41 percent.

Fireweed colonizes recent alluvial deposits [132].  It acts as a pioneer
species on glacial moraines, establishing with willows (Salix spp.) on
exposed gravel, sand, and silt bars [216,226].  In Glacier Bay, Alaska,
the pioneer stage with fireweed and willows lasts 1 to 5 years [213].

In succession on delta swamps in Michigan, the grass stage with
bluejoint reedgrass and fireweed follows the sedge-mat stage.  The grass
stage is succeeded by a shrub stage [44].

Fireweed is an indicator of a midseral stage of succession in the herb
layer of the grand fir/Rocky mountain maple (Abies grandis/Acer glabrum)
habitat type in central Idaho [200].  It is an indicator of early seral
stages in grand fir/blue huckleberry (Vaccinium globulare) habitat types

The time ranges given here for the phenological stages of fireweed
reflect its widespread distribution, varying from region to region and
from habitat to habitat.  Root growth can begin at 40 degrees Fahrenheit
(4.5 deg C), preceding stem emergence [29].  Shoots emerge in spring
(late March to early June).  Leaves are full grown approximately 1 month
after emergence [43].  Maximum biomass occurs in summer (August) and may
be 0.12 to 0.19 pounds per square foot (0.6-0.9 kg/sq m) [43].  Flowers
bloom June through September [83,111,164,188,191,224].  Fruits mature
approximately 1 month later [187].  Seeds are released beginning in
August and continue to be shed after shoots have died from frost injury
[43,187].  Foliage will turn color with limited water availability in
the late summer and fall [62].  Seeds germinate late summer or fall, and
seedlings overwinter as a rosette [43].  The primary and secondary roots
of seedlings may develop buds which overwinter [195].  Shoot buds form
in the fall on lateral roots and overwinter just below the soil surface


SPECIES: Chamerion angustifolium
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Fireweed is a component of diverse ecosystems in boreal and temperate regions with variable fire regimes.  Fireweed is primarily adapted to fire through its rhizomes and its prolific production of wind-dispersed seed.  Depending upon depth of rhizomes in the soil, fireweed is moderately susceptible to resistant to fire [43,150,219].  The majority of roots and rhizomes are in the top 2 inches (5 cm) of mineral soil and can survive relatively intense fires [43,74,150].
Mass flowering of fireweed in a burned-over lodgepole pine stand following the 1988 Yellowstone Fire. U.S. Department of the Interior, Natoinal Park Service image.
Fireweed has high ash and high moisture content; it is not considered
flammable [223].  A study that examined litter fall in aspen (Populus
tremuloides) stands found that the dominant herbaceous species was
fireweed, which contributed 334.6 pounds per acre (375 kg/ha) to litter
[48].  However, fireweed litter rapidly decomposes.  Fireweed leaves
lost more than 70 percent of their mass after 3 years in the field

Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this 
species may occur by entering "fireweed" in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".

   Geophyte, growing points deep in soil
   Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)
   Secondary colonizer - on-site seed


SPECIES: Chamerion angustifolium
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Fire top-kills fireweed.  Seed in the surface organic layers is killed by fire [74].  Surviving fireweed rhizomes vigorously sprout after surface fire [35,86].  Twenty to thirty days after fires in July and August fireweed sprouted from rhizomes [195,199].
Fireweed seedlings (red arrows) in postfire year 1, following the 2017 Park Creek Fire near Lincoln, Montana. Common beargrass is sprouting to the right. Image by Garon Smith, used with permission.
Fireweed is an important off-site colonizer after fire [203,204].
Often, it is not present on a site before a fire but establishes during
the first postfire year [8,9,38,215].  Seedlings are initially present
in low amounts [155,174].  Colony growth continues via rhizome
expansion; some seedlings continue to establish as mineral soil
microsites open.

Initial establishment of fireweed seedlings usually exceeds expectations
of frequency based upon on-site prefire vegetation [141].  Following a
fire in eastern Siberian taiga, fireweed regenerated, and 79.5 percent
of fireweed individuals present sprouted from seed [212].

Fireweed is usually an increaser following fire [36,78,193,205].  Within
3 postfire months, fireweed was present at 3 percent frequency and 1
percent cover in central Alberta [7].  Fireweed slowly increases in
abundance, often with 100 percent frequency and 30 percent or more
cover, to peak on average postfire years 5 [18,39,51,63,80,155,170].  In
the Cascade Range, fireweed had significantly (p<0.05) different amounts
of cover at postfire years 3 to 5, but from years 11 to 16, there was no
significant (p>0.05) change in cover between burned and unburned areas
[160].  However, at 11 postfire years, fireweed was present at 91
percent frequency on upland sites in northwestern Oregon [165].  It was
not in the surrounding Douglas-fir-western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)
stand.  Fireweed was still one of the principal cover species 10 to 12
postfire years on severe fire sites in northern Idaho and western
Montana [45,140,147,203].  In other studies, the highest frequency for
fireweed was reached 17 to 20 years after fire [45,142,162].

Fireweed production may vary with severity of fire.  Severe fires remove
organic soil layers, exposing mineral soil which is an excellent seedbed
for fireweed.  Therefore, cover and density are greatest on severely
burned areas because of good seedling establishment [13,17,19,20,43].
Three years following an August fire, fireweed production steadily
increased from 423.8 air dried pounds per acre (475 kg/ha) on
low-severity burns to 1,478.4 air dried pounds per acre (1,657 hg/ha) on
high-severity burns [20].  However, fireweed was more dense 1 year after
fire in Wyoming on moderate-severity burns compared to high-severity
burns [6].

Initially, fireweed decreased after fire from prefire levels of cover
(20 percent) in a Douglas-fir stand in south-central Idaho [139].
However, by postfire year 3, cover had doubled the amount present
prefire.  Postfire years 5 to 8, fireweed cover peaked at 84 to 88
percent [139].  Fireweed was expected to decline over the next 20 years
to prefire levels.

Fireweed is one of the most abundant forbs on most burned areas of
interior Alaska [138].  A series of severe fires in Alaska will convert
any forest type into a semipermanent herbaceous or shrub community [33].
The herbaceous communities are usually fireweed and grasses, such as
bluejoint reedgrass.

Immediately following burning of a white spruce type, fireweed can form
relatively stable communities with bluejoint reedgrass that may last 100
years in interior Alaska [137].  Following fire in black spruce (Picea
mariana) in the Northwest Territories, fireweed is the most prominent
plant and is one of several diagnostic species for the first stage of
recovery [26].  This stage may last 1 to 20 years [26].

In Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir communities (Picea engelmannii-Abies
lasiocarpa), fireweed was dominant on stands 1 to 10 postdisturbance
years; it declined on stands 11 to 80 postdisturbance years [71,189].
Following fire in the western hemlock/Douglas-fir zone in the Olympic
Mountains, Washington, fireweed was common for stands 2 postfire years
[100].  However, it began to decline in frequency in stands 3 to 19
postfire years.  After about 30 years, fireweed had a low average
frequency (4 to 10 percent) with about 1 percent cover in burned-over
areas of different cover types, such as paper birch (Betula papyrifera),
aspen, and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) [168].  This pattern was seen in
Douglas-fir stands in the Cascade Range, Washington, aged 5 to 73 years
following logging and burning [135].  Fonda [75] found that fireweed
persisted under similar circumstances in stands 65 years or younger.
Fireweed began to decline in frequency as the crown of different forest
types closed in stands approximately 57 to 280 postfire years and was
absent in stands aged 290 to 515 postfire years [40,100,207].

Lyon's Research Paper, Hamilton's Research Papers (Hamilton 2006a, 
Hamilton 2006b), and the following Research Project Summaries provide 
information on prescribed fire use and postfire responses of many 
plant species, including fireweed:
In white spruce-aspen stands in Alberta, prescribed fire was not
effective for conifer regeneration after logging [119].  Heavy postfire
sprouting by aspen and fireweed inhibited white spruce seedling
establishment.  Light surface fires stimulated fireweed growth to 100
pounds per acre (111.9 kg/ha) within 3 months.

Fireweed and other forbs produced heavy cover following a severe fire in
Minnesota that inhibited jack pine growth [1].  Jack pine seedlings were
thin, light colored, and stunted.  Despite detrimental effects of
shading tree seedlings, herbaceous cover may provide higher microsite
humidity and suppress shrubs [2,151].

Fireweed effectively uptakes and recycles large amounts of nutrients
from burned-over areas [166].  Fireweed foliage had significantly
(p<0.05) higher levels of nutrients (potassium, magnesium, manganese,
phosphates, and zinc) on burned areas compared to unburned controls

Fire protection managers should consider using fireweed when they
require a species with low flammability rating (for rating factors see
Fire Ecology or Adaptations) [223].  Fireweed is included in the
narrow-leaved forb class for establishing fuel weights [31].

Following logging, slash may be bulldozed into piles.  Bulldozing
scarifies the soil, and slash piles burn very hot; fireweed readily
established in these open spots [14,218,222].  Fireweed had
significantly (p<0.05) higher frequency of occurrence on logged and
broadcast burned areas than on unburned areas [162].  Dense fireweed
stands protected slash from sun and wind during the fifth year after
cutting, reducing the probable rate of fire spread compared to the first
summer after cutting [159].  However, fireweed increases the rate of
fire spread with dead leaves and stems.

Burning, mechanical (e.g., tree cutting), biological (e.g., intense
sheep grazing), and chemical controls were applied to enhance big
huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum) communities on Mount Adams,
Washington.  These treatments had no significant (p>0.05) effect on
fireweed abundance during postdisturbance years 1 and 2 [156].  Fireweed
was significantly more abundant on burned plots postdisturbance year 5.
No other treatments had a significant (p>0.05) effect on fireweed
abundance after 5 years.

In Alberta, forage species, such as alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and
crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum cv. Fairway) were seeded into
burned areas [5].  Fireweed successfully invaded the plantings and was
still present after five years.  Grasses aerially seeded on burns may
compete and displace fireweed.  In Montana, Pattee Canyon was aerially
seeded with commercial grasses following a fire.  Fireweed had low cover
values 10 years later [211].  Toth [211] suggested that orchardgrass
(Dactylis glomerata) had displaced fireweed.


SPECIES: Chamerion angustifolium
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Fireweed is a preferred food for ungulates in British Columbia, Wyoming, and Oregon [29,58,91,184,205].  It is eaten by moose, caribou, muskrats, and hares in British Columbia [29].  In Alberta, fireweed is incidental forage for bighorn sheep [23].  Fireweed is consumed by woodland caribou in Minnesota and Ontario [49,186].  It is an important summer food for mountain goats in Alaska [95].  Small mammals, such as chipmunks and pikas, eat fireweed fruits and seeds [221].  Fireweed is a nectar source for hummingbirds [172,200].  Butterflies use both the nectar and pollen from fireweed [25]. In the Rocky Mountains, fireweed is an important food for elk in summer [106,126,129].  Elk sometimes feed exclusively on fireweed [180].  In one study, utilization of fireweed reflected its availability; an average of 4 percent of bites of forbs taken by elk on burned areas was fireweed, compared with less than 0.5 percent of bites on unburned areas [34].  In another study, elk utilized fireweed more in clearcuts than in grass-shrub communities [106]. Fireweed use by white-tailed deer was restricted to the months of January and May [114].  Foraging deer used fireweed 3 to 8 percent of the time during July and August in Minnesota [105]. In Oregon, black-tailed deer prefer fireweed [66,67].  Black-tailed deer use fireweed as forage from May to July in British Columbia and Alaska [47,167].  In Washington, black-tailed deer stomach content analyses showed that fireweed was a major food item, eaten with 14 percent frequency [30].  It was consumed throughout the entire growing season (May to October). Mule deer use fireweed moderately as forage during the summer in Wyoming and Colorado [57,220].  In Arizona, fireweed is rated as potentially valuable forage for mule deer and elk during the spring (March to May) [209]. Fireweed comprised 44 percent of summer and 18 percent of fall nonwoody forage eaten by moose in Idaho [179].  In Montana, moose used fireweed as food less than 2 percent during spring and winter [194].  Moose used fireweed as approximately 5 percent of summer forage in Wyoming [99]. Fireweed was preferred by moose in Minnesota during June and July and was eaten 7 to 17 percent of the time [105].  In Alaska, before it flowered, fireweed was a preferred major food item for moose during July [133].  Postflowering fireweed plants were rarely consumed. PALATABILITY: The palatability of fireweed for livestock and wildlife species has been rated as follows [60,104,200]:                          ID      MT      OR      UT      WA      WY Cattle                  ----    ----    good    ----    good    ---- Sheep                   good    ----    good    ----    good    ---- Pronghorn               ----    ----    ----    good    ----    poor Elk                     good    fair    ----    good    ----    good Mule deer               good    fair    ----    good    ----    good White-tailed deer       good    fair    ----    fair    ----    good Small mammals           ----    ----    ----    fair    ----    good Small nongame birds     ----    ----    ----    fair    ----    good Upland game birds       ----    ----    ----    ----    ----    poor Waterfowl               ----    ----    ----    poor    ----    poor NUTRITIONAL VALUE: Nutritional value of fireweed varies depending on season and site. Fireweed crude protein averaged 20 percent throughout the second summer following fire; dry matter digestibility was over 80 percent [58].  In another study, crude protein content was 13.7 percent, and protein digestibility (dry matter) was 13 percent [180].  Fireweed collected in July in Alaska had 11.9 percent protein, 62.2 percent dry matter digestibility for moose, and 64.7 percent dry matter digestibility for dairy cow [169].  Fireweed samples taken in July and August in Minnesota had crude protein of 4 to 9 percent and dry matter digestibility of 28 to 69 percent [186].  In Oregon, June fireweed foliage had 17.7 percent protein [66]. Fireweed flowers contain tannins that have a very high capacity to precipitate proteins, reducing the actual amount of protein available to an herbivore [180]. COVER VALUE: The degree to which fireweed provides cover during one or more seasons for wildlife species have been rated as follows [60]:                          MT      UT      WY Pronghorn               ----    poor    poor Elk                     ----    poor    poor Mule deer               ----    fair    poor White-tailed deer       poor    ----    ---- Small mammals           poor    fair    fair Small nongame birds     poor    ----    fair Upland game birds       ----    fair    fair Waterfowl               ----    poor    poor        VALUE FOR RESTORATION OF DISTURBED SITES: Fireweed provides soil stabilization on burned and other disturbed areas. For example, it is used to revegetate mined lands.  In Alberta, fireweed successfully establishes on mine spoils in alpine and subalpine habitats [32,183].  Fireweed voluntarily seeded into plantings of commercial species on coal strip mines in Alaska [68].  Elliott and others [68] cautioned against fireweed invasion when using nonnative reclamation species.  Fireweed formed mycorrhizal associations on coal mine spoils [29]. When establishing on borrow pits of differing ages in northwestern Canada, fireweed had variable success but was present on all sites [117].  Kershaw and Kershaw [117] advocated the use of fireweed in revegetation programs in tundra regions. During a planting trial that tested the revegetation potential of species along disturbed roadsides in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, fireweed naturally seeded in with the planted grasses and forbs during the first year [145].  Fireweed is recommended for use as protective groundcover throughout British Columbia on disturbed sites, such as roadways and logged areas [221].  Planting guidelines for fireweed are detailed [221]. Revegetation of crude oil spills is a concern in tundra regions. Fireweed was 1 of 14 plants with cover greater than 2 percent on oil spill areas that were 35 years old [116].  In British Columbia, fireweed was able to survive diesel oil on its foliage; however, the plants died where the spill penetrated to the roots [221]. Planting fireweed rhizomes may speed colonization of a disturbed area [148].  Dormant rhizomes were collected and planted in simulated pipeline trenches and road rights-of-way in the Northwest Territories [148].  Fireweed plants established best with the addition of fertilizer. OTHER USES AND VALUES: Young shoots were collected by Nuxalk Indians in British Columbia for food [131].  Fireweed petals are made into jelly [98].  Mature leaves are dried and used as tea [90].  Roots are eaten raw by Siberian Eskimos [101]. Fireweed is grown as an ornamental; however, it can become an aggressive weed [94,221]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Although fireweed does not readily invade established vegetation, it may be a problem when establishing confer seedlings [43].  Fireweed overtops conifer seedlings and can persist for 10 years or more [15,29,43, 138,166].  It contributes to snow press damage of tree seedlings [87]. The thick rhizomes of fireweed may serve as occasional sources of root rot (Armillaria ostoyae), a destructive disease in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) [121]. Fireweed is better adapted to subalpine habitats than are some introduced species used in roadside seedings.  Some managers regard fireweed as the most prominent forb of disturbed montane areas [77]. Biological Control:  A wide range of aphids and other insects have been reported as parasites or associates on fireweed [29].  In a fireweed population in northern Idaho, the smaller plants were dying of Aecidium infections [102]. Chemical Control:  Soil-acting compounds (e.g., bromacil) and foliar sprays (e.g., 2,4-D) give effective control of fireweed [29,43]. However, glyphosate only gives a short-term reduction in fireweed cover [43,171].  Other herbicides, such as pronamid or terbacil at rates of 2 pounds active ingredients per acre (2.2 kg ai/ha), do not control fireweed [201]. In a visual assessment of foliar susceptibility, fireweed was extensively damaged by sulfur dioxide released from a burning landfill [96]. Mechanical Control:  Fireweed is susceptible to damage from continual grazing, trampling, or mowing [29].  However, stembases are stimulated by cutting to produce more shoots and rhizomes [41].  Early spring grazing of fireweed stimulates shoot production; plants can be grazed again in the fall.  Since this grazing regime lowers fireweed vitality, grazing can be used for suppression [104].  Fireweed cover was reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent after 2 years of grazing by sheep [107].  By year 7, fireweed began to disappear.  Fireweed has low resistance to human trampling.  Less than 40 passes per year through a fireweed population reduced its frequency and cover [42], but it was able to recover between seasons of use. Various straw mulches were placed on a clearcut in Quebec to suppress herbaceous vegetation [109].  The mulch had no effect on the presence of fireweed. Disturbance to the forest floor may increase fireweed.  V-blade and brush rake site preparation methods after clearcutting increased the amount of fireweed; however, disking did not [108].  Unscalped areas supported more fireweed cover on both clearcut and shelterwood cut white spruce (Picea glauca) stands in Alaska [228].  Unscarified areas in clearcut sub-boreal forests had higher fireweed cover than blade-scarified areas; however, unscarified areas in clearcut boreal forests had lower fireweed cover than blade-scarified areas [27]. To enhance forage species, such as fireweed, subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) was clearcut in strips.  Fireweed significantly (p<0.05) increased in standing crop biomass on the cut areas [177].  Foliar cover and height of fireweed are able to account for 89 percent of the variation in biomass in a variety of cover types in Alaska [225].  This model can be used to predict the productivity of an area. Industry Considerations:  Fireweed is an important nectar producer for the honey industry throughout Canada [29].  Honey production from fireweed in the Soviet Union was reported as 892.2 pounds per acre (1,000 kg/ha) [29].  Ingram [104] noted that apiarists followed logging operations to ensure fireweed nectar sources.


SPECIES: Chamerion angustifolium
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