In the great rush of botanical discovery in 2019, when the list of species in the park leaped over the 150 mark, one modest little bloomer was overlooked. It’s Epilobium brachycarpum or Panicled Willowherb, also known as Tall Willowherb, Tall Annual Willowherb, or Tall Fireweed. The “panicled” refers to the loose clustered structure of the plant’s stems. The flower seems to have eight petals, but there’s really only four, deeply divided. Naturalist Jutta Burger photographed this plant in August of 2019, and we published an item on it in an early installment of Flora Friday, the fabulous weekly botany column, but the plant never made it onto the plant list. A week ago I photographed it, thinking I had made a new discovery. Ha!
Here by way of supplement and partial correction to the Flora Friday item is the following. This plant is native to North America, including California. It’s also been introduced somehow into Europe and South America, arousing some multilingual scholarly interest, most of it other than welcoming. Locally in the Sierra Foothills it’s becoming a pest, due to its ability to ignore Roundup (glyphosate). It has a following among practitioners of traditional medicine, who believe that it possesses healing properties. Extracts from this and related Epilobium species have been shown to contain flavonoids, phenolic acids and tannins (oenothein B and oenothein A), and these have been shown in observational studies “to possess antimicrobial, anti-proliferative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antioxidative activities.” Source. Seeds of this plant are available commercially. And it is now registered on the Chavez Park Plant List.