Rosebay Willowherb is a handsome perennial is commonly found in wasteground and urban gap sites throughout Scotland. It also enjoys damp woods and rocky places.
As well as seeding on the wind, each plant develops an extensive root system by which it can quickly establish a dense mass on a piece of wasteground turning the area into a pink sea of florescence.
It adopted the nickname ‘bomb weed’ during the war as it was the often the first plant to establish on a bombsite.
‘Angustifolium’ means narrow-leaved. The name is derived from the flowers’ passing resemblance to rose flowers, and the leaves’ resemblance to bay leaves.
It has been placed in the genus Chamerion rather than Epilobium, more usual for willowherbs, because of certain factors which distinguish the rosebay from other willowherbs.
Flowering rosebay willowherb
For instance, the leaves protrude from the stalk in a spiral arrangement up the stem rather than a whorled, or opposite leaf arrangement more common in the genus Epilobium.
The flowers are usually deep pink borne in symmetrical upright spikes or racemes. Each flower is 2-3cm wide, has four petals and four thinner pink sepals behind. The style is white and protruding with four stigmas on the end, surrounded by long stamens.
The pith scraped out of the plant stem is tasty and has long been used for a wilderness food, as it contains essential carbohydrates which boost energy levels.