Dienstag, 23. August 2011

Plant of the Day (August 23rd, 2011) - Epilobium angustifolium L.


Today, I want to show you probably one of the most beautiful weeds in the world. This plant is Epilobium angustifolium L. (sometimes also Chamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub.) from the Onagraceae family. In English, this plant is known as “Fireweed” or “Rosebay Willowherb” while in German, we call it “Schmallblättriges Weidenröschen”.

E. angustifolium - habitus

But let us first take a general look at the Onagraceae (“Willowherbs” or “Nachtkerzen”, because this is a very interesting family. The inflorescences of this plants are often racemes, which consists of several “levels” of flowers. Each “level” blooms only one day and one night, then it start to fade and the flowers of the next “level” opens. The pollinators are often moths, which pollinates the plant at night.

E. angustifolium- inflorescence

So, now we look at E. angustifolium. It's a large herb, which grow to heights between 50 and 120 cm (sometimes 200 cm (6.6 feet)). It's a perennial plant with a very sweeping root system and an upright growing stalk, which is round or a little bit edged. The leaves (width: 3 millimetres) are narrow and lanceolate, what is also the reason for the Latin name (“angustifolium” means “narrow leaf”). They've a white leaf-vein on their back and a weakly serrated edge, which is bent downwards. The leaves follow the alternate leaf-pattern.

E. angustifolium - leaves

The inflorescence is one terminal raceme, which is rich of beautiful, cygomorphic flowers. Each flower has four narrow sepals, four purple petals and a four-part stigma. The flowers open from bottom to top.

E. angustifolium - inflorescence

E. angustifolium is common all over the northern hemisphere, so it can be found in Europe, North America and Asia. It prefers bright, lime-poor soils and is a very typical plant of ruderal wastelands. It also grows on rocks and grows in ruins and demolition sides. After World War II, it was also one of the first flowers, that grew in the bombed cities of Europe. It also spreading out in forest after clearings or forest fires (which gave the plant the name “Fireweed”)

 E. anugstifolium - leaves of a younger plant

E. angustifolium - leaves

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