Index of Species Information
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:
Chamaenerion angustifolium (L.) Scop. 
Epilobium angustifolium L.
E. a. ssp. angustifolium Mosq.
E. a. ssp. circumvagum Mosq.
E. a. var. canescens Wood
E. a. f. albiflorum (Dum.) Haussk.
E. a. f. spectabile (Simmons) Fern. [72,112,224,230]
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted name of fireweed is Chamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub ;
it is in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae). This is an extremely variable
taxon with worldwide distribution . Recognized subspecies are :
C. a. ssp. angustifolium
C. a. ssp. circumvagum (Mosq.) Hotch
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
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].
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
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
SK YT MEXICO
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
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
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
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
SAF COVER TYPES :
1 Jack pine
5 Balsam fir
12 Black spruce
13 Black spruce - tamarack
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
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
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
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Fireweed 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 .
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 
(2) Phytogeographia Laurentiana. II. The principal plant associations
of the Saint Lawrence Valley 
(3) Vegetation of the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming, in relation to
substrate and climate 
(4) Montane zone vegetation of the Alsek River region, southwestern
(5) Classification, description, and dynamics of plant communities
after fire in the taiga of interior Alaska 
(6) Subalpine forb community types of the Bridger-Teton National
Forest, Wyoming 
(7) Vegetation types in northwestern Alaska and comparisons with
communities in other Arctic regions 
(8) Vegetation relationships among some seral ecosystems in
southwestern British Columbia 
(9) Ecosystem classification and interpretation of the sub-boreal
spruce zone, Prince Rupert Forest Region, British Columbia 
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 . In Alberta, fireweed is incidental
forage for bighorn sheep . Fireweed is consumed by woodland caribou
in Minnesota and Ontario [49,186]. It is an important summer food for
mountain goats in Alaska . Small mammals, such as chipmunks and
pikas, eat fireweed seeds . Fireweed is a nectar source for
hummingbirds [172,200]. Butterflies use both the nectar and pollen from
In the Rocky Mountains, fireweed is an important food for elk in summer
[106,126,129]. Elk sometimes feed exclusively on fireweed . 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
. In another study, elk utilized fireweed more in clearcuts than in
grass-shrub communities .
Fireweed use by white-tailed deer was restricted to the months of
January and May . Foraging deer used fireweed 3 to 8 percent of
the time during July and August in Minnesota .
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 . 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)
Fireweed comprised 44 percent of summer and 18 percent of fall nonwoody
forage eaten by moose in Idaho . In Montana, moose used fireweed
as food less than 2 percent during spring and winter . Moose used
fireweed as approximately 5 percent of summer forage in Wyoming .
Fireweed was preferred by moose in Minnesota during June and July and
was eaten 7 to 17 percent of the time . In Alaska, before it
flowered, fireweed was a preferred major food item for moose during July
. Postflowering fireweed plants were rarely consumed.
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 . In
another study, crude protein content was 13.7 percent, and protein
digestibility (dry matter) was 13 percent . 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 . 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 . In Oregon, June fireweed foliage had 17.7 percent
Fireweed flowers contain tannins that have a very high capacity to
precipitate proteins, reducing the actual amount of protein available to
an herbivore .
COVER VALUE :
The degree to which fireweed provides cover during one or more seasons
for wildlife species have been rated as follows :
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 REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Fireweed is used for revegetation of mined land. 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 . Elliott and others 
cautioned against fireweed invasion when using nonnative reclamation
species. Fireweed formed mycorrhizal associations on coal mine spoils
When establishing on borrow pits of differing ages in northwestern
Canada, fireweed had variable success but was present on all sites
. Kershaw and Kershaw  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 . Fireweed is recommended for use as protective
groundcover throughout British Columbia on disturbed sites, such as
roadways and logged areas . Planting guidelines for fireweed are
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 . In British Columbia, fireweed
was able to survive diesel oil on its foliage; however, the plants died
where the spill penetrated to the roots .
Planting fireweed rhizomes may speed colonization of a disturbed area
. Dormant rhizomes were collected and planted in simulated
pipeline trenches and road rights-of-way in the Northwest Territories
. Fireweed plants established best with the addition of
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Young shoots were collected by Nuxalk Indians in British Columbia for
food . Fireweed petals are made into jelly . Mature leaves
are dried and used as tea . Roots are eaten raw by Siberian Eskimos
Fireweed is grown as an ornamental; however, it can become an aggressive
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Although fireweed does not readily invade established vegetation, it may
be a problem when establishing confer seedlings . Fireweed overtops
conifer seedlings and will persist for 10 years or more [15,29,43,
138,166]. It contributes to snow press damage of tree seedlings .
The thick rhizomes of fireweed may serve as occasional sources of
rootrot (Armillaria ostoyae), a destructive disease in ponderosa pine
(Pinus ponderosa) .
Fireweed is better adapted to subalpine habitats than are some
introduced species used in roadside seedings. Some managers regard
fireweed as the most prominent weed of montane areas .
Biological Control: A wide range of aphids and other insects have been
reported as parasites or associates on fireweed . In a fireweed
population in northern Idaho, the smaller plants were dying of Aecidium
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
In a visual assessment of foliar susceptibility, fireweed was
extensively damaged by sulphur dioxide released from a burning landfill
Mechanical Control: Fireweed is susceptible to damage from continual
grazing, trampling, or mowing . However, stembases are stimulated
by cutting to produce more shoots and rhizomes . 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 . Fireweed cover was
reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent after 2 years of grazing by sheep
. 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 , but it was
able to recover between seasons of use.
Various straw mulches were placed on a clearcut in Quebec to suppress
herbaceous vegetation . The mulch had no effect on the presence of
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 . Unscalped areas
supported more fireweed cover on both clearcut and shelterwood cut white
spruce (Picea glauca) stands in Alaska . 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 .
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 . 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 . 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 . Honey production from
fireweed in the Soviet Union was reported as 892.2 pounds per acre (1,000
kg/ha) . Ingram  noted that apiarists followed logging
operations to ensure fireweed nectar sources.
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
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
. One plant may have 15 or more flowers . Each flower produces
a capsule with 300 to 500 seeds [72,196]. Seeds have a tuft of long
hairs on one end .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Fireweed regenerates sexually and asexually. Airborne seeds allow
fireweed to establish rapidly . Hungerford  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 . Moisture supply is more stable and more nutrients
are available on a mineral soil seedbed . Once established, it
forms large colonies via rhizomes and produces large amounts of seed
Vegetative Reproduction: Vegetative reproduction is more prevalent than
sexual reproduction . Fireweed may not flower every year in the
northern limits of its range or at alpine elevations in the southern
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 .
Fragmentation of rhizomes stimulates shoot production . 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 .
Sexual Reproduction: Fireweed flowers can self-cross or outcross .
They are principally pollinated by insects . Fireweed is a prolific
seed producer . One plant may produce about 80,000 seeds per year
. In seed traps placed on a burn in Saskatchewan, fireweed
represented 63 percent of all germinated seeds . One year after the
Mount St. Helens explosion, 81 percent of seed collected in seed traps
were fireweed seeds . 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 . 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 . 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) . Broderick  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 .
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 .
Using modified insect suction traps mounted on radio towers, Solbreck
and Andersson  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  reported that the seed rain of
fireweed for all of northern Quebec was 3.7 seeds per square foot (40
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Fireweed tolerates a wide range of site and soil conditions, but it most
commonly occurs on disturbed ground. It 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]. Fireweed 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
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 .
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 . 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 . Fireweed may
occur in neutral soils [48,208]. Northern soils in which fireweed
occurs may be frozen 4 to 5 months or longer .
Fireweed occurs on flat to rolling topography or moderate to steep
slopes . It is found from sea level to high alpine elevations
[89,185]. Mueggler  found no significant (p>0.05) effect of aspect
on the frequency of fireweed in burned areas in Idaho.
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) .
Pteridophyte associates are western swordfern (Polystichum minutum),
brackenfern (Pteridium aquilinum), and woodland horsetail (Equisetum
sylvaticum) [21,229]. Important liverwort and moss associates are
Marchantia polymorpha and Ceratodon purpureus . (Also see
Distribution and Association)
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
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 . It starts low in frequency and
density if it must seed in from off-site . Halpern  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 maintain themselves through vegetative
reproduction if conditions are not conducive to flowering. Depending
upon surrounding vegetation fireweed may create widely spaced colonies
with low stem densities . In Alaska, ground that was covered 30
years by debris from oil exploration was cleared or burned .
Fireweed vegetatively colonized these areas at low frequencies and
cover. In 20 study sites in Montana, Stickney  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 . Sometimes, it will persist into the pole stage .
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 .
Moore  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 . Shirley
 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 . 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  found a significant (p<0.05) decrease in
fireweed frequency when tree canopy cover exceeded 41 percent.
Fireweed colonizes recent alluvial deposits . 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 .
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 .
Fireweed is an indicator of a mid-seral stage of succession in the herb
layer of the grand fir/Rocky mountain maple (Abies grandis/Acer glabrum)
habitat type in central Idaho . It is an indicator of early seral
stages in grand fir/blue huckleberry (Vaccinium globulare) habitat types
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
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 . Shoots emerge in spring
(late March to early June). Leaves are full grown approximately 1 month
after emergence . 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) . Flowers
bloom June through September [83,111,164,188,191,224]. Fruits mature
approximately 1 month later . 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 . Seeds germinate late summer or fall, and
seedlings overwinter as a rosette . The primary and secondary roots
of seedlings may develop buds which overwinter . 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].
Fireweed has high ash and high moisture content; it is not considered
flammable . 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
. However, fireweed litter rapidly decomposes. Fireweed leaves
lost more than 70 percent of their mass after 3 years in the field
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
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 . Surviving fireweed rhizomes vigorously sprout after a
fire [35,86]. Twenty to thirty days after fires in July and August
fireweed sprouted from rhizomes [195,199].
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
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
Initial establishment of fireweed seedlings usually exceeds expectations
of frequency based upon on-site prefire vegetation . Following a
fire in eastern Siberian taiga, fireweed regenerated, and 79.5 percent
of fireweed individuals present sprouted from seed .
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 . 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
. However, at 11 postfire years, fireweed was present at 91
percent frequency on upland sites in northwestern Oregon . 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 . However, fireweed was more dense 1 year after
fire in Wyoming on moderate-severity burns compared to high-severity
Initially, fireweed decreased after fire from prefire levels of cover
(20 percent) in a Douglas-fir stand in south-central Idaho .
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 . 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 . A series of severe fires in Alaska will convert
any forest type into a semipermanent herbaceous or shrub community .
The herbaceous communities are usually fireweed and grasses, such as
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 . 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 . This stage may last 1 to 20 years .
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
. 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) . This pattern was seen in
Douglas-fir stands in the Cascade Range, Washington, aged 5 to 73 years
following logging and burning . Fonda  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].
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
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:
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
In white spruce-aspen stands in Alberta, prescribed fire was not
effective for conifer regeneration after logging . 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 . 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 . 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) . Fireweed is included in the
narrow-leaved forb class for establishing fuel weights .
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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . Toth  suggested that orchardgrass
(Dactylis glomerata) had displaced fireweed.
SPECIES: Chamerion angustifolium
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