|Fireweed at Central Lake|
purple and white flowers.
Fireweed derives from the species' abundance as
a coloniser on burnt sites after forest fires. The
young shoots were often collected in the spring by
Native American people and mixed with other
greens. They are best when young and tender; as
the plant matures the leaves become tough and
The southeast Native Americans use the
stems in this stage. They are peeled and eaten raw. When properly
prepared soon after picking they are a good source of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A. The Dena'ina add
fireweed to their dogs' food. Fireweed is also a medicine of the Upper Inlet Dena'ina, who treat pus-filled
boils or cuts by placing a piece of the raw stem on the afflicted area. This is said to draw the pus out of the
cut or boil and prevents a cut with pus in it from healing over too quickly.
A flowering fireweed plant
The root can be roasted after scraping off the outside, but often tastes bitter. To mitigate this, the root is
collected before the plant flowers and the brown thread in the middle removed.
In Alaska, candies, syrups, jellies, and even ice cream are made from fireweed. Monofloral honey made
primarily from fireweed nectar has a distinctive, spiced flavor.