More than just a weed

TAYLOR COUNTY—Some residents may have noticed a tall weed that seemed to appear out of nowhere in late August/early September. What is being seen is American Burnweed, also known as Fireweed. 

The plant was originally given this name because of the belief that it quickly colonizes newly burned areas.

Unlike its name suggests, it is not at all dangerous, but is not a very attractive looking plant and it can grow to be between eight and ten feet tall.  It is also known to compete with certain crops, such as blueberries and strawberries.

It is a shallow rooted, herbaceous plant that can grow under a variety conditions.  The stems are brittle with large basal leaves and serrated upper leaves. 

American Burnweed produces many cup shaped flowers that when they bloom, display a cluster of silvery hairs attached to tiny seeds.

Many people comment on the unpleasant or rank odor of the plant.  In spite of this, it has been suggested that it can be used as a salad or potherb.    

The plant can be easily hand weeded because of its shallow root system. Of course, the plant should be removed before it flowers as the seeds can easily blow off in the wind and start new plants. 

Hoeing or cultivation is also effective to control smaller patches of it. 

Large populations of Burnweed can be controlled by applying broadleaf herbicides containing 2, 4-D and triclopyr, other broad-spectrum selective herbicides or a non-selective herbicide, such as glyphosate or glufosinate.

Many just see a plant that they want to get rid of, but American Burnweed also has many medicinal purposes. 

As a medicinal plant in North America, the use of Burnweed has a complex history.  Many early North American sources indicate medicinal uses of the plant, or the “fireweed” oil derived from it.  The oil has been used to treat wounds, hemorrhages, poison ivy rashes and other illnesses, such as piles. 

In conclusion, if individuals have seen any pop up in thier yard or garden as of late, it is not a danger but can quickly become a headache by taking over if it is not removed before it flowers.