Fabulous Fireweed

Courtesy NPS/ Jacob W. Frank

By Alexander Deedy

Through July and August, fireweed seems so ubiquitous in Alaska it’s often said it should be our state flower. The plant is so prolific in Southcentral that just seeing a picture of fireweed in bloom during the depth of winter will bring me a flood of summer memories. The purple flowers start blooming from the base and work their way up to the plant’s tip, and every sourdough knows the story that when the bloom reaches the top, it’s only six weeks ‘til winter. That groundhog in Punxsutawney may have us covered with the forecast for spring, but without fireweed, we’d be lost in the autumn.

Luckily for Alaskans, fireweed has become more than just a gauge spelling the end of our summer play and a dive into winter. Its ubiquity has spread to store shelves, where you can find it made into fireweed honey, jelly, syrup, tea, and even ice cream. So while the forget-me-not may be our official state flower, fireweed will always hold an honorary place in the flower hall of fame for us northerners.


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