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Senecio h. Fire weed. Fire wood.
Tinct. of whole Plant.
Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Asteridae / Synandrae; Asterales; Compositae / Asteraceae - Composites / Daisy or Sunflower Family
Introduced and proved by Hale: Allen: Encyclop. Mat. Med. Vol. IV, 210; Clarke: A Dictionary of Pract. Mat. Med. Vol. I, 709.
Description of the substance
This coarse, homely American weed is an annual and derives its name from its habit of growing freely in moist open woods and clearings, and in greatest luxuriance on newly-burnt fallows. It has composite flowers, blooming from July to September.
Lactuca Canadensis, the wild Lettuce or Trumpet Weed, and Hieracium Canadense, are also given the designation of 'Fireweed' in America from their habit of growing on newly-burnt fallow, but Erechtites hieracifolia (Rafin.) may be called the true Fireweed, as it is the plant which commonly goes by that name.
Senecio is derived from Senex (an old man), in reference to the hoary pappus, which in this order represents the calyx; Erechtites comes from the ancient name of some troublesome Groundsel.
The whole plant is succulent, the odour rank and slightly aromatic, with a bitterish and somewhat acrid and disagreeable taste.
In the United States Fireweed is a very troublesome weed; the fields often get infested with it, and when growing among Peppermint, it is definitely destructive, as it gets mingled with the plant in distilling and causes great deterioration of the oil.
History and Description.—
This is an indigenous, rank weed, growing in fields throughout the United States, in moist woods, and in recent clearings, especially and abundantly in such as have been burned over, hence its vernacular name Fireweed.
Although leaf shape and structure can vary, leaves are generally bright green, alternate, narrow with serrated, entire or lobed margins. The broader leaves are usually clasped around the stem and are 2–6 cm long, occasionally reaching 8–10 cm on vigorous and older plants.
Flowers are small, yellow and daisy-like, from 1–2 cm in diameter and can number from 2–200 per plant in a loose cluster at the end of the branches. Petal numbers are usually a constant 13. Plants flower mainly from April-September, with individual plants often having a wide range of flowering stages at any one time.
Seeds are small (1–3 mm long), light and slender. They are cylindrical in shape, with a downy surface and attached to a pappus of fine, silky white feathery hairs. The plant produces large quantities of seed over a long period.
Each flower produces between 100–150 seeds. Therefore, a single large plant has the ability to produce around 25,000–30,000 seeds with a high viability.
Fireweed has a shallow, branched tap root with numerous fibrous roots, growing from 10–20 cm deep
From the fact of its brittleness and consequent liability to be easily broken, it is seldom found where animals graze. It flowers from August to October, and resembles in appearance the sow-thistle (Sonchus oleraceus); the flowers somewhat resemble those of lettuce. The whole plant is medicinal, and yields its virtues to water or alcohol. It has a peculiar, aromatic, and somewhat fetid odor, very unpleasant to many persons, and a peculiar, slightly pungent, bitterish, rather disagreeable taste, with some astringency. The leaves, which are most generally employed, when dried are almost black, and by this characteristic, as well as by form, may be distinguished from those of Erigeron canadense, or Erigeron annuum, with which they are sometimes confused. The former plant is often erroneously called Fireweed. Erechtites is often incorrectly spelled Erechthites.
Fireweed is highly adaptable to changes in the environment. Under normal or favourable seasonal conditions, the plant can behave as a short-lived perennial. In an extremely dry season or in an arid environment however, it behaves as an annual.
In the field, many stages of development of the plant (seedlings to flowering plants) can be seen at almost any time of the year.
Germination of seed depends mostly on rainfall but is also stimulated by light and by mild-warm temperatures.
Optimum temperatures for germination of fireweed occur between 15–27oC, with greatly reduced germination at lower or higher temperatures. Most rapid germination occurs between 20–25oC.
As these temperatures indicate, fireweed can germinate over much of the year. Most seed, however, germinates from March-June, with the young plants developing rapidly. Plants can produce flowers 6–10 weeks after emergence.
Seeds can germinate immediately after they are released from the flower head. The plant is therefore able to produce several generations in one season. The seed has a germination percentage soon after maturity of around 90%.
Germination of seed is affected by soil depth, with seedling emergence not occurring below 2 cm.
It is not known how long seed will remain viable in the field, but observations of recently disturbed paddocks and subsequent infestations suggest it can be a number of years.
In most districts, fireweed ends its life cycle from spring onwards. This occurs when the top growth of most of the advanced plants, dies off during the summer. The perennial root system however remains and can produce new and rapid regrowth from the crown in the following autumn. In some situations, plants can continue to grow throughout the year.