Rosebay Willowherb

(Chamaenerion angustifolium). The leaves are edible, and can be eaten as a vegetable, Linnaeus actually recommending that the young shoots should be served like asparagus (Grigson. 1955). Some North American Indian groups boiled the young leaves to make a beverage tea, and the roots, also edible, would be split open and eaten raw (Turner & Bell). The leaves are used in Russia to adulterate ordinary tea, the result being called Kapoorie Tea (Leyel, 1937, Usher). They are also used to flavour beer, and a sweet tisane can be made from the dried flowers (Schauenberg & Paris). In Greenland, apparently, the leaves were used copiously to spice seal blubber (Swahn).

A root decoction has been taken as a cure for whooping cough, and asthma, too. In America, there are records of aboriginal use for various ailments; the Menomini used the roots to make a wash for swellings (H H Smith. 1923). And the Ojibwe used this for boils and carbuncles (H H Smith. 1945).

Rosebay has been called Fireweed in America, for its seeds are almost the first to colonise an area cleared of vegetation by fire, etc., (House). An interesting development on this is the name given over south-east

England, Bombweed (Mabey. 1998), from the way it so quickly colonised bomb sites during World War 2. Perhaps this characteristic is the reason for its assignment to 'pretension' in plant symbolism (Leyel. 1937).

Mother-die is one of the names given to Rosebay (Vickery. 1995; Opie & Tatem), and shared with many other plants ( see MOTHER-DIE). Any plant bearing this name is taboo to children. They must never pick them, for breaking that taboo would be to bring about the death of the child's mother.

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