The tutor shares a discovery from his yard.
We have a lawn, but also a bark-chip area in front of our house. During a season, I let parts of it grow more or less freely: some very colourful blooms populate it.
Yesterday my wife asked about the “fluffiness” of some flowers in the bark chip area. I told her it didn’t surprise me; though I’d never paid particular attention, it seemed ordinary. Most of the flowers are already gone, but a few pink ones remain. The plant grows straight up, over a metre tall.
Today, I decided to identify that plant, then decide if, indeed, the fluffiness is normal. I picked up the field guide and outside I went, first examining the plant, then sitting back in a lawn chair scanning the guide’s pages for it.
I wouldn’t have guessed it to be of the evening primrose family, yet, voilà: it’s unmistakably fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium, aka Rosebay Willowherb), an evening primrose member. The guide reports it common in disturbed areas (which our bark chip area is, since I rake it a few times annually), and up to 3m tall – once again, correct.
The flowers, it reports, are found in clusters atop the the stem. They have groups of 4 petals and 4 sepals. The remaining fruit is just the “stalk” that supported the flower; it might be a little more purple and a little enlarged. According to the guide, it opens to release “hundreds of fluffy, white seeds” – hence the fluffiness.
Hikers can picture this erect herb, up to 3m tall, with green, lance-shaped leaves below, and pink inflorescence above. The guide points out its commonness on railroads – not that we have many of those locally. It’s also common on old burn sites, leading to its name.
Pojar, Jim and Andy MacKinnon. Plants of Coastal British Columbia. Vancouver:
BC Ministry of Forests and Lone Pine Publishing, 1994.
Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.