florida Early Detection Network


Hairy willow-herb, Codlins and cream, European fireweed


Epilobium hirsutum L.


Evening primrose family


Epilobium hirsutum

Close-up of flower

Flower and fruits




Ripe fruit capsules with seeds



Synonyms: None


Botanical Glossary

Epilobium hirsutum is an herbaceous perennial that spreads by rhizomes. The stems are erect and softly hirsute-pubescent, measuring 0.5-2 m (1.5-6.5 ft.) in height. The leaves are opposite and lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate in shape. They are sessile, often clasping at the base. The leaves grow up to 5-12 cm (2-4.75 in.) long by 1-3 cm (0.4-1 in.) wide and have sharply serrulate margins. These leaves are pubescent on both the upper and the lower surfaces. The rose-colored flowers appear in racemes in the upper leaf axils from July to September. They are about 2.5 cm (1 in.) across and have four notched petals that are pubescent at their base. The slender fruit capsules are 5-8 cm long (2-3 in.). The seeds are oblong and flattened, measuring 1 mm (0.04 in.) long and have a tuft of long, nearly white hairs. Page References Crow & Hellquist 210, Fernald 1058, Gleason & Cronquist 316, Holmgren 297, Magee & Ahles 767, Newcomb 160, Peterson & McKenny 270. See reference section below for full citations.


Epilobium angustifolium L. (Fireweed, great willow-herb) E. angustifolium differs from E. hirsutum in that its leaves are longer, measuring 15-20 cm (6-8 in.), and it also does not have pubescent leaves.


Epilobium hirsutum spreads vigorously by way of rhizomes. It can also spread by wind-dispersed seeds, though this method is secondary to its vegetative reproduction.


Epilobium hirsutum is a native of Eurasia and North Africa. It is now found in Europe, Africa, Asia, southern Australia (as of 1990) and the United States. In the United States it is found from Maine to Wisconsin and South from Illinois to Maryland, as well as in the states of Washington and Oregon. It has been reported from all the states of New England.


The earliest record of Epilobium hirsutum in the Northeast is from Newport, Rhode Island in 1829. After this date there is a gap until the 1850's and 1860's when it was reported in a number of sites along the northeastern seaboard (Stuckey, 1970). These records suggest that it may have been brought to the U.S. in ship ballast. It may have been purposefully cultivated, but soon after it became noted as a garden weed. After its arrival in coastal areas it spread inland at a fairly rapid pace.


Edge, Herbaceous Wetland, Lake or Pond, River or Stream, Wet Meadow, Yard or Garden. Epilobium hirsutum grows in moist to wet soils and is generally found in wetland to semi-aquatic habitats. It has the ability to adapt to wet conditions through the development of arenchymal tissues in its stem and rhizomes. It prefers open conditions where it can receive ample light. Its habitat preferences and pattern of spread are similar to that of Lythrum salicaria.


Epilobium hirsutum can form dense monotypic stands in natural wetland areas, and is capable of crowding out native species.


Documentation required: A specific photograph or mounted snippet of the stem and flowers. Best time for documentation: Summer.


University of Washington Herbarium State distribution map and images

Integrated Taxonomic Information System Taxonomic information about the species

The PLANTS database General information and map

BioImages- The Virtual Field Guide Images

The Connecticut Botanical Society

Washington State Department of Ecology Description, ecology and general information


Barakat, H.H., S.A.M. Hussein, M.S. Marzouk, I. Merfort, M. Linscheid, M.A.M. Nawwar. 1997. Polyphenolic metabolites of Epilobium hirsutum. Phytochemistry 46 (5): 935-941.

Britton, N. L. and A. Brown. 1970. An Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States vol. 2. Dover Publications Inc., New York.

Crow, G.E. and C.B. Hellquist. 2000. Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Northeastern North America. Vol #1. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's Manual of Botany 8th ed. American Book Co., Boston.

Gleason, H.A. and A.C. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Holm, L.G., Pancho, J.V., Herberger, J.P., and Plucknett, D.L. 1979. A Geographical Atlas of World Weeds. John Wiley and Sons, New York, USA.

Holmgren, N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Magee, D.W and H.E. Ahles. 1999. Flora of the Northeast. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.

Newcomb, N. 1977. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. Little Brown, Boston.

Peterson, R.T. and M. McKenny. 1968. A field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Stuckey, R.L. 1970. Distributional History of Epilobium hirsutum in North America. Rhodora 72: 164-181.

USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1. (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.