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170714 Rosebay willowherb (5)

It takes a while to learn the differences between the different willowherbs (and the ease with which they hybridise doesn’t help!) but this, the Rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium), is probably the one most people know best. It was a garden escapee originally, first recorded growing in the wild in 1769, and was considered quite scarce until World War I, when the plant took advantage of woodland areas where timber had been felled (and the area burned) to assist the war effort. Rosebay willowherb’s liking for areas that have been burned is the reason for its common name of Fireweed and is why, during World War II, it thrived in London’s bomb craters, thus earning the plant its other common name of Bombweed. Some people curse it for its invasive tendencies but, for me, there is no prettier sight that a stand of Rosebay willowherb glowing in the bright summer sunshine.

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