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What I didn’t know about fireweed

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To tell the truth, before the trip to the Rocky Mountains in Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia, I knew almost nothing about fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium). In nature shows on television I’d occasionally caught a glimpse of the plants flowering, and that was about it.

In addition to yesterday’s strictly “vegetarian” post, three previous photographs showed you fireweed flowers and animals. In one case it was with a bumblebee, in another with a ground squirrel, and the third with a caterpillar. What impressed me about the plant in its own right was its seeds. The reddish seed pods are long and narrow, and when they open, which surprisingly often happens from the proximal rather than the distal end, they release seeds attached to silky strands, much like milkweed seeds. At the moment when I took the photograph above in Waterton Lakes National Park on August 29th, the newly freed seeds still partly preserved the alignment they’d had just a short while earlier when compressed inside their slender pods. That same temporary clinging to the past is visible in the photograph below, which is from near the shore of Emerald Lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park on September 7th.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2018 at 4:52 AM

Fireweed at the edge of Emerald Lake

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On September 7th, Yoho National Park‘s Emerald Lake served as a pastel backdrop for these buds and flowers of fireweed, Chamaenerion angustifolium.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2018 at 4:48 AM

Bumblebee on fireweed flowers

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From August 30th in Glacier National Park, here’s a bumblebee on some fireweed flowers. The way the bumblebee flitted about on the fireweed reminds me now of the way botanists have been flitting about in some of their classifications. They’ve dubbed fireweed Epilobium angustifolium, Chamerion angustifolium, and most recently Chamaenerion angustifolium. Oh well, that which we call fireweed, by any other name would have flowers that look as good—assuming you’re close enough. After one view of wilted flowers and another of fresh ones from a bit of a distance, you’re finally getting a proper look at some fireweed flowers.

If you’d like to see the many places that fireweed grows in North America, check out the zoomable USDA map. I’d thought of this as a species from the Northwest and Canada and Alaska, and so was glad to finally encounter it on this trip. Now I’m surprised to learn that fireweed grows in 38 out of the 50 states in the United States. That range doesn’t include Texas but it does include Long Island, where I grew up.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 20, 2017 at 4:34 AM

A colorful revisiting of Emerald Lake

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Hard to believe today marks three years since we stood at the edge of Emerald Lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park. Smoke from forest fires obscured the lake’s far shore but the turquoise color still came through to set off the slender red seed capsules of the fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) in the first photograph. On a different fireweed plant there I found the caterpillar of a bedstraw hawkmoth, Hyles gallii.

Although it was only a week into September,
so far north some foliage was already beginning to turn colors.

I was attracted to a bush with small white fruits and reddening leaves
that I take to be common snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2020 at 5:00 AM

Emerald Lake shore

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A year ago today we (and many other people) visited Emerald Lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park. The smoke from forest fires dulled views of the surrounding mountains, as you see above, so for some pictures of the lake I aimed closer in. As an example of that approach take the second photograph, which plays up the tall trees while still allowing the color of the lake to come through.

The low plants along the water in the photograph above are sedges. Below is a close view of one taken from the shore looking back the opposite way. In “La Belle Dame sans Merci” Keats mentioned this type of plant:

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

 

And to counteract the pallor of any pale loiterers among you, here are some fireweed flowers (Chamaenerion angustifolium) that also grew close to the shore.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2018 at 4:46 AM

September 4, 2017

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September 4, 2017, proved a long and adventuresome day in the Canadian Rockies. A couple of hours after heading north from Calgary we entered Banff National Park, where among intriguingly many other things I photographed the cloud-bannered fortress of rock shown in the first image. Call it Mount Rundle and you could be right.

Along the noisy edge of the Trans-Canada Highway I photographed some late-stage fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) divorced from its mountainy context.

By early afternoon we reached the famous Bow Lake.

At the far end of the day, as we headed east from Jasper to Hinton, I photographed burned trees with no water in sight.

Then, further along and with little daylight left, I found other trees not obviously charred but still seemingly dead that stood next to as much water as they could have wanted when alive. The way the water reflected the trees appealed to me.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 4, 2018 at 4:40 AM

From Columbia to Columbian

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Okay, so I graduated from college at Columbia University in 1967. That didn’t prepare me for my first encounter, fifty years later, with a Columbian ground squirrel (Urocitellus or Spermophilus columbianus) outside the Logan Pass visitor center in Glacier National Park, Montana, on August 31st. I’d kept hearing a clucking noise that I couldn’t identify. A nearby person said “it” was on the other side of some trees from where we were standing. When I walked around I found out what the “it” was: this squirrel chattering away and coincidentally lording it over a little colony of flowering fireweed (Chamaenerion or Chamerion or Epilobium angustifolium). This is the second appearance recently of fireweed in a supporting role with an animal; the prolific plant will eventually appear in its own right. In the meantime, if you want a much closer look at the ground squirrel, click below on the excerpt from a different frame. You’ll be glad you did.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2017 at 4:37 AM

Bedstraw hawkmoth caterpillar

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While walking around a stretch of Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, on September 7th, we encountered a handsome caterpillar on a fireweed plant (Chamaenerion or Chamerion or Epilobium angustifolium). A member of bugguide.net identified, and another at Butterflies and Moths of North America later confirmed, my subject as the larva of Hyles gallii, a type of Sphinx moth known as a bedstraw hawkmoth.

A few of you may remember the forlorn Hyles lineata moth that appeared here in 2012.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2017 at 4:52 AM

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