Wednesday, July 19

Hot Pink

We are now well into the fireweed period of the Yukon wildflower season. In many places, fireweed is seen as more nuisance than asset, and there is good reason for that. It grows throughout the northern hemisphere, and there is nothing that can compete with its ability to take over when other species are wiped out, like when there's a forest fire, for instance. So its common name is a well-earned one, since it spreads after a fire exactly like a weed.

But its mauve beauty makes it too lovely for the weed label, don't you think? Here in the Yukon, we treasure the fireweed, giving it the honor of being the official territorial flower. If you were to drive up the Alaska Highway during July, you couldn't help notice an abundance of these tall pinkish flowers growing along the sides of the highway.

In the photo above, snapped by oldest son in Kluane National Park this past weekend (click for larger viewing), only the blossoms along the bottom of the stalk are blooming. The blooms on fireweed start at the bottom and move upward toward the top as the summer progresses. Yukoners say that when the blossoms reach the top of the fireweed, summer is over, and that's a fairly accurate statement.

I've been told that honey made mostly from the nector of fireweed is especially delicious, but I've never tried it, so I can't vouch for that. Some people pick the very young shoots and leaves of the fireweed to use as salad greens or a cooked vegetable. I haven't tried that, either. I have tried fireweed tea, which is made from the dried leaves, and I found it rather bitter.

I think I'll skip the harvesting and continue to enjoy them for their simple pink beauty.

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