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Rosebay Willowherb - Chamaenerium angustifolium

Foraging and identification of Rosebay Willowherb aka Fireweed (Chamaenerium angustifolium))

Edible plant - novice Season - Summer Common names Rosebay Willowherb, Fireweed, Willowherb, Bombweed

Scientific name meaning: The genus name is from the Latin Chamae, meaning false, and the Greek Nerium, meaning Oleander. The species name is Latin in origin, from Angust and Folium, meaning narrow leaved.

Rosebay Willowherb (Chamaenerion angustifolium) Habitat


Found on slightly acidic to calcareous wet soils. It quickly colonises cleared areas, particularly after fires.

Rosebay Willowherb (Chamaenerion angustifolium) plant structure

Overall structure

Reaching up to 2.5m in height, it is a tall slender plant. In summer, tall spires of pink-purple flowers are present

Sea Rocket (Cakile maritima) Leaves


The long, thin lance-shaped leaves are tinged red when young, and turn green with age. However, some redness still remains on the mid rib and leaf edge. The pinnate veins cross link to each other just before reaching the leaf edge forming one large outer loop. They are arranged in alternate pairs up the stem

Rosebay Willowherb (Chamaenerion angustifolium) Stems


Smooth and tinged red

Rosebay Willowherb (Chamaenerion angustifolium) Flower


The pink-purple flowers appears in racemes in summer. They flower from the bottom of the raceme to the top. They have four spoon shaped petals, the top pair being closer together than the bottom, and four skinny purple-pink sepals that can be seen through the gaps in the large petals

Rosebay Willowherb (Chamaenerion angustifolium) Seeds


The long, thin seed pods are tinged pink-purple and split four way when mature. The seeds are held on silky hairs that are carried on the wind

Purple Loosestrife

Possible lookalikes

Could be confused with other Willowherbs or Purple Loosestrife (pictured), which is mildly toxic. However, the leaves of Rosebay Willowherb are much thinner and the flowers of other Willowherbs and Purple Loosestrife lack the visible, skinny purple sepals through the spoon-shaped petals.


Use as a food The young stems can be eaten cooked like asparagus or used raw in salads. The leaves can be bruised and dried to make a tea alternative, while the root can be cooked and eaten. The pith in the stems is sweet but sparse. The flowers can be eaten raw or used to make jams, jellies, syrups, cordials and alcohol infusions

Hazards There are some reports that infusions made from the leaves can cause stupefication

Use in herbal medicine Has been used to treat inflammatory bowel disorders and constipation. Also used as a hypnotic, emollient, astringent, antispasmodic and skin salve. In Europe, it has been used in the treatment of prostate disorders If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner Other uses The seed hairs are used by bush crafters as a form of tinder and to make cordage. Historically, they have also been used as a stuffing material, as well as in a preparation to protect skin from the cold. Importance to other species Important food source for many pollinators, and the larval food source of Elephant and Bedstraw Hawkmoths and White-Lined Sphinx Moth.

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!


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