After flowering profusely in dense pink strands throughout summer, fireweed, or great willowherb, is now rapidly maturing and bursting with the white silky fluff which will aid its seeds being dispersed by the wind. A very common wildflower in most cool temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, it is very abundant here in Scotland, where it often heavily colonises roadsides and hedges, being omnipresent in urban disturbed sites. Although it is considered a weed, when its growth is limited to a regular patch in a suitable position it can look very dramatic, as it can reach a considerable height and forms a very dense wall of thousands of flowers, extremely attractive to wildlife.
All young parts of the plant are edible and the dried leaves can be used to brew a tea. Fireweed has also been traditionally used as a medicinal plant, mostly as an anti-inflammatory both for external and internal use. When used internally it’s said to have some mild sedative and hypnotic effects, so best not used in large quantities.