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Chamerion latifolium

Dwarf fireweed

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderMyrtalesIncludes myrtles, leadwoods, loosestrifes, pomegranates, evening primroses, many others
FamilyOnagraceaeWillowherb/evening primrose family
GenusChamerionFrom the Greek chamai, “dwarf,” and nerion, “oleander,” this is apparently a name that has replaced the invalid name Chamaenerion published by Seguier in 1754

About plant names...

Dwarf fireweed, related to evening primrose, is an Alaskan native, and now appears in Arctic and subarctic parts of the Northern Hemisphere, and further south at higher eleva­tions. I’d have thought “fireweed” referred to its dramatic and attractive flowers, but the name stems from its ability to rapidly colonize burned ground. In postwar Britain, it was known as rosebay willowherb and informally as bombweed because it appeared quickly in bomb craters. Dwarf fire­weed appears on river banks, gravel bars, and glacial outwashes, open woods, roadsides, open fields, pastures, prairies, hills, damp ravines, and disturbed areas. It is found at elevations from sea level to 13000 feet.

Plants: Less than 28" (70 cm), with stiff, woody stems.

Leaves: ⅜-4" (1-10 cm) long × up to ¾" (1.9 cm) wide, alternate, sessile, elliptic to widely lanceolate in shape. Leaves are gray-green, with a single prominent vein on the underside. Leaf tips may be pointed or rounded.

Flowers: A raceme of striking, rough-haired hot pink or pur­ple flowers (sometimes white), tilted sideways or nod­ding downwards. The four petals are up to 1" (3 cm) long. Sharp-tipped, darker pink sepals form a backdrop. Flowers appear from July to August.

Fruits: Elongated, narrow capsules 1-4" (3-10 cm) long, with seeds at the tip that are ¹/₃₂-¹/₁₆" (1.3-2.4 mm).

Dwarf fireweed has a big brother with similar-appearing flowers:


Chamerion latifolium (dwarf fireweed)

7/20/2004 · Ninilchik, Alaska · By Constance B. Kent

Chamerion latifolium (dwarf fireweed)

7/20/2004 · Ninilchik, Alaska · By Constance B. Kent

Chamerion angustifolium
Common Name

Plant 20-98" (50-250 cm) in height, with a single, erect stem that reddens later in the season, sometimes branching to multiple flower spikes.
Flowers Flower spikes are 4-10" (10-25 cm) long, with pink flowers about ½" (1.3 cm) in diameter, each with four petals.
Leaves 2½-6" (7-15 cm) long, with smooth edges, and are long and narrow, tapering to sharp tips. The leaf veins form distinctive circular loops.
Fruit Seed pods are reddish-brown, about 1½" (3.8 cm) long, splitting and curling when dry to expose silken fibers and about 80,000 seeds per plant.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 2-7
Habitats Newly exposed land, such as that left behind from forest fires
Type Wild


Edibility: Inuit have long eaten the leaves raw, steeped in tea, or boiled in fat. In addition to the leaves, flowers, fruits, and young shoots are edible.

Online References:

Chamerion latifolium at the Missouri Botanical Garden

Chamerion latifolium on www.americansouthwest.net

Chamerion latifolium on www.calscape.org

Chamerion latifolium on Wikipedia

Chamerion latifolium on botanyphoto.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca

Chamerion latifolium from the Jepson Manual


Chamerion latifolium description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 31 Aug 2021.

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