Sowing seeds of fireweed-Epilobium angustifolium

wisconsitomJune 25, 2013

AKA Chamerion angustifolium; Has anyone here successfully begun a patch of this plant via seed? Specifically, I'm planning on a dormant seeding which for my area usually is done after mid-October. The idea is that frost action will place the seeds at just the proper depth-hardly any-in the soil for germination the following spring.

Anybody see anything wrong with this plan? Other than you don't like fireseed! I've got some big areas up at my tree farm that would be great for this plant for a while, until the forest takes over.

BTW, this is native to my state. But as far as I've seen, there is presently none on my land.

Thanks in advance.......+oM

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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Wisconsintom,

I have started Chamerion angustifolium from seed. Got the seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery, sowed them in early winter via winter-sowing about 3 years ago, and got lots of germination. They sat in the container over the first winter and they survived fine so they are quite hardy. Planted the seedlings out the next Spring in an area where I have previously burned brush - figured they would like that!

The plants are hanging on and even spread a little, however the deer must LOVE this plant, because they eat it down every year and I've yet to see a single bloom. I only get light deer browsing in the back, and it is generally in the wilder area and always the same plants, Jewelweed, certain asters, fireweed, etc. so these must be their favorites.

For your purposes I would assume you purchase bulk seed and frost-seed, which sounds like a great plan. Or direct sow in the fall and mimic their natural dispersal mechanisms, which I believe is far and wide via wind on their "fluff".

It sounds like a great choice for your young forest, such a beautiful plant (at least in pictures since I haven't seen a bloom yet, haha).

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 12:18PM
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wisconsitom

Thanks much, Terrene. I think that, based on your response, what I'll do is have my farmer guy work up a few smallish patches of ground, Do you happen to know of a seeding rate for this species on a per acre basis? This more for at my work, where I also wish to start some patches of this species to "diversify the diversity" a bit, by which I mean, around our stormwater ponds, etc. we've installed many a prairie planting, and I wish to get something going more akin to what this area would have actually had-not much for prairie up here- but there would have been temporary clearings following forest fire and other disturbance, with plants like this fireweed taking over for a while. I've done some looking but have not seen any direct reference to a per-acre or per 1000 square ft. seeding rate.

thanks again....+oM

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 10:27AM
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terrene(5b MA)

These seeds need a fairly lengthy period of cold stratification so I doubt they would sprout no matter when you scatter the seed in the fall.

Isn't frost seeding when you sow seeds after the ground has already frozen, in late winter? From what I understand ideal conditions for frost seeding are when temps are below freezing at night, above freezing during the day, and no little or no snow cover. This creates a honey comb effect in the soil and the seed will settle into the little cracks.

Sorry +om, I have no idea how much seed you would need to spread!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 11:14PM
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wisconsitom

Yeah, I just mean a dormant fall seeding, one in which the intent is for the seeds to not germinate until the following spring. We do this all the time with various native seed mixes.

In my part of the world, mid-Oct. usually gets you there.

+oM

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 2:52PM
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wisconsitom

Well, a thread that is only a mere one year old-that's not too bad! Terrene if you're still there, we did do some sowing around stormwater sites that were being newly seeded but I chickened out and went with simply mixing the fireweed in with the other wet-mesic prairie species. As this spring has been so slow to get going, and extremely wet to boot, I'm not seeing any action yet, for this or any other of the species sown. But like I say, there's been hardly any warmth yet.

So now, we're looking at doing a 7.64 acre area that, while supposedly planted in "native mix", has yet to really amount to much. This is a "storage area" for flood waters and as such, is quite moist. We just got another 2-inch rainfall so there's actually standing water there now, more a puddling effect than ponding. I think this should be a good site for further introduction of this plant into our system. Yes, I'm blessed to be working with extremely good stormwater engineers and as such, I've gotten a good deal of support in trying these somewhat off-the-beaten-track ideas.

I still need to nail down some kind of suggested seeding rate, if anyone has any thoughts on that. And while the seed is tiny and hence, needs to be mixed with sand or sawdust carrier, sowing is difficult compared to some of the larger-seeded natives. So we continue to look at methodology here.

Any comments are welcome!

+oM

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 9:20AM
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Campanula UK Z8

Just a thought, Tom. Fireweed grows vigorously on the wet meadow (reedbed, sedges) next to my woodland. It seems to form a natural community with meadowsweet (ulmaria filipendula) but most especially and (attractively to my mind) with the many members of the umbel/apiaceae family - from the early smyrnium perfoliatum, anthriscus, various angelicas (there is a fabulous dark leaved variety of A.sylvestris - 'Vicar's Mead or 'Ebony', hieraceum, chaerophyllum.....and, of course, the lovely white chamerion, epilobium angustifolia album.

Just getting carried away........

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 5:05PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Just a thought, Tom. Fireweed grows vigorously on the wet meadow (reedbed, sedges) next to my woodland. It seems to form a natural community with meadowsweet (ulmaria filipendula) but most especially and (attractively to my mind) with the many members of the umbel/apiaceae family - from the early smyrnium perfoliatum, anthriscus, various angelicas (there is a fabulous dark leaved variety of A.sylvestris - 'Vicar's Mead or 'Ebony', hieraceum, chaerophyllum.....and, of course, the lovely white chamerion, epilobium angustifolia album.

Just getting carried away........

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 5:06PM
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wisconsitom

I feel that, Campanula! One thing I will be bound to here is to pretty much stick with natives to our neck of the woods. I'd thought maybe Canada blue joint grass would be a good companion to the Epilobium, both of them appreciating moisture. One more thought, related to what you've said, is Golden Alexanders, an umbelliferous member of the Apiaceae. Another lover of moist areas, this plant would provide somewhat similar effect to what you describe. And what's more, in time, both of these plants could get passers-by squaking that "the City is planting invasive plants", given the flowering effect of the fireweed could be mistaken for the invasive purple loosestrife while the golden alexanders superficially resemble the wild parsnip which is roaming across our area!

In any case, I appreciate your input.

+oM

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 7:58AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Tom, I am around and so are my poor little fireweed plants, which have yet to flower because the deer have eaten them back every summer. This year I am seriously contemplating using a repellent for the deer favorites.

The seedlings from your mix (if they show up) will probably be small this year. I might have a pic of the fireweed seedlings upstairs on the desktop. I'm not sure what you should do to seed the new area, but I admire your creative mindset and you might have failures but no doubt you will discover new things because of it.

I'm growing both species of Zizia, the Z. aptera plant came from a swap and it's seeding itself around and I ws'd a couple of Z aurea seedlings which are coming along and blooming, so they'll probably be seeding around soon too. These may appreciate a wet area, but they're doing fine in my drier garden.

Is "wild parsnip" the same as Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota)?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 2:25PM
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wisconsitom

No Terrene, wild parsnip is a different member of that plant family. While wildly invasive, it too is quite beautiful in bloom. But the plant exudes a chemical which, especially in the presence of sunlight, causes quite a skin rash/irritation, further endearing it to folks tasked with dealing with it!

Thanks for the info!

+oM

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 9:19AM
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