Looking for an ID on a particular species

sutremaine(UK S.Wales 9)April 2, 2013

I don't have any photos at the moment because I'm trying to weed it out (it's very aggressive, having appeared in one location last year but everywhere this year), but hopefully I can provide enough information.

Size: About 2-3ft after one growing season. Very healthy-looking lush growth when growing in shade on clay soil. Develops a sharp, narrow reddish-purplish-brown border at the leaf edge when exposed to more sun.
Growth pattern: Spreads upwards, forming an interesting woody base clump, and propagates itself by massive stolons beneath the soil surface.
Flowers: Purple, insignificant, borne on long thin spikes (one per stem, iirc). Once mature, the seeds have fluff on them like dandelion seeds do, and the fluff is fine enough for the individual seeds to fall in clumps or stay on the plant.

Looking at the topmost leaves alone, it bears more than a passing resemblance to basil. It has more leaves on the stem though.

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gardengal48

It sounds a lot like what is known here as fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium (formerly Epilobium angustifolium) or in the UK as rosebay willowherb. Will grow almost anywhere but especially plentiful in damp soils and in open areas.

'angustifolium' means narrow leaves but IME (and this is a rampant weed in my area), new growth is extremely lush and the leaves wider and much more rounded than when the plant is mature. A resemblance to basil is very evident :-) It often has a reddish tint to the new foliage and reddish stems as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chamerion angustifolium

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 1:29PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Mmmm, would agree there, GG.

Funnily enough, I am nurturing the white willowherb (supposedly not a rampant seeder) to plant along my stream banks.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 3:31PM
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sutremaine(UK S.Wales 9)

That's the bugger. The area it sprouted in last year was cleared out and dug over the year before to get rid of the scraggly grass and allow dormant seeds to pop up, but it looks like I'll have to keep knocking this one back to allow the slow starters a chance to grow.

The bees would probably like them, especially if I can get enough sun on them to make the flowers pop like in the photos. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 7:44PM
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ninamarie(4Ont.)

Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) has very showy, magenta flowers and grows to about 5'. It flowers in late summer and is definitely not insignificant. After flowering, is followed by the "smoke" period when its fluffy white seeds drift through the garden. The leaves are narrow and willow-like.
There are a few related weeds with insignificant flowers, but fireweed, though spreading, is a very attractive garden plant and a good alternative to purple loosestrife. We grew it for years and after letting it take over the garden, found it easy enough to control with a little work.
Whatever it is, cut the seedheads off before they ripen.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 9:05AM
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wieslaw59

The original description of the plant in question does not fit to the plant called Epilobium angustifolium AT ALL. It does not spread upwards and it does NOT make a clump. At least NOT HERE.(and it covers the half of the land). You cannot compare it to Lythrum at all. Lythrum does not produce seed when solitary, and it does not run.

This post was edited by wieslaw59 on Fri, Apr 5, 13 at 12:20

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 12:10PM
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Campanula UK Z8

well, it's quite hard to know what is meant by spreading upwards and ninamarie is not exactly comparing it to P.loosestrife (and we do not want to get into definitions here either).
Good to see you back in contentious mode (or mood) after a long winter, Wieslaw.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 5:35PM
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ninamarie(4Ont.)

Flowers are close to the same colour as purple loosestrife and they can be mistaken at a quick glance.
Often, when we are driving through the north here, I have to get out of the car to see the plants up close before I can distinguish between fireweed and purple loosestrife. But blame it on these aging eyes.
If we are speaking of the same plant - purple loosestrife or Lythrum salicaire, it is definitely a seed producer, even when solitary, and it definitely runs.
Fireweed is easy to weed out; loosestrife is not.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 6:21PM
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sutremaine(UK S.Wales 9)

I thought I posted this once already...

Anyway, the flowers are pretty insignificant when the plant is growing between a house and a fence and gets sun only on midsummer mornings. ;)

It's definitely fireweed (or an extremely close relative...), and the description was close enough for it to be ID'd correctly with the first reply. So, good enough this time. I say definitely fireweed and not loosestrife mostly on account of the long, curving seed capsules.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 8:43PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

There are other weedy Epilobiums which occur more commonly in gardens than E angustifolium. E parviflorum is one such.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 3:27AM
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Campanula UK Z8

um, would agree that e.parviflorum is the most likely candidate, given the supposed insignificance of the flowers.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 6:54AM
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sutremaine(UK S.Wales 9)

Guess we'll have to wait until it flowers, then.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 3:28PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Can you show us a picture of the basal rosette? That would settle it.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 5:00PM
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sutremaine(UK S.Wales 9)

Okay, here's a nice chunk of greenery.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 2:22PM
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abgardeneer(Z3, Calgary)

It certainly is an Epilobium sp., but it's not Chamerion(Epilobium) angustifolium.
Compare to other weedy species, e.g. E. ciliatum, etc..

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 2:52PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Yep, that settles it...but would go with the small-flowered willowherb, E.parviflorum. It's annoyingly ubiquitous in the UK, lacking the far prettier flowers of E.angustifolium - yet I am certain every new gardener has nurtured the impressive looking rosette, fooled into great expectations - I know for sure I have.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 3:10PM
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sutremaine(UK S.Wales 9)

If it seems too good to be true...

It's quite a welcome splash of green in the early Spring, even if its boundless enthusiasm makes it otherwise undesireable.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 6:57PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I have just been forking it out of my allotment. It has a nasty habit of growing amongst the Lambs Lettuce and doing a good job of mimicking it. Harder to pull up than it looks as it has a tendency to hang on the the soil tenaciously with multiple fine roots..

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 4:32PM
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Campanula UK Z8

yep, been forking it out of mine too. What do you grow, Flora? edibles, flowers, weird stuff?

Do you ever feel a bit stretched - allotment, woods, garden?
I feel certain I am going to be hard-pressed.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 1:58PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

My 'garden' is genuinely minute, the wood looks after itself and the allotment is pretty much under control after 20 odd years. I only grow stuff that wants to grow, don't do any bedding out and let things self seed a lot. Such as the aforementioned Lambs Lettuce. But, yes, I sometimes get home from work and think I ought to be on the allotment - but stay in and have a glass of wine instead.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 2:18PM
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