Known throughout the northern hemisphere as Chamerion angustifolium and Epilobium angustifolium, fireweed gets its common name from the plant’s ability to take over blackened earth after a forest fire. Fireweed is also the common name for other plants found in Australia, Mexico and Hawaii.
With a name like fireweed, writers had lots of wiggle-room to play with the ideas it brought to stories. It’s tenacity to overcome hardship lends it a strong plant or name to use in imagery. Writers even found unexpected uses for fireweed to carry a tale.
The following are based on the February 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed.
One Spring Morning by Michael Fishman
“It’s a beautiful day,” he said to her. “Yesterday I . . .”
At 98-years-old, Arthur’s memory was iffy. Recent memories flickered on and off like an old neon, but he was blessed with a gift of nonchalance, and when yesterday’s memory flickered off, he remembered the long ago past instead.
“Do you remember our wedding? 1937. We were so young. Eighteen. Midst of the depression and we didn’t have a penny. Remember the bouquet of flowers I gave you for our first anniversary?”
He smiled as he laid a sprig of fireweed on the headstone.
“Happy anniversary, Sarah.”
Lady Fireweed by Kerry E. B. Black
My SpukWu’say cast herself like the seed of the willow herb on an Alaskan breeze, blowing where fate might have her alight. I don’t think she cared if she ever landed. She wanted to experience freedom and, since she’d been nurtured and knew her worth, she felt no fear. She drifted until she found a prairie and a community she admired. There she set down roots. She stretched her abilities like tender greens, practiced healing and aided all. When at last she bloomed, her talents lit her world like translucent fairy dances until all tried to imitate Lady Fireweed.
Fireweed by Kay Kingsley
The corners of myself amass cobwebs in spaces I no longer occupy, my younger self gone, consumed by webs of growing doubt and fatigue.
Perhaps letting these corners go I let my self go, cherry-picking parts of me to display while obscuring my true self that once existed.
At ground zero, my fallout has erased me. My shelter and cobwebs exposed and incinerated in the following fire.
The rain has stopped and crouching in the smoldering field of black, I lower my face towards the puddle beside me, exhausted. Imagine my surprise, I died and returned as a Fireweed.
Fireweed by FloridaBorne
“Dr. Bernard Fireweed?” I asked, a bit put-off by a door too many greasy hands had touched.
A man with scruffy white hair replied an amused, “Yes.”
“As my mother, Rosebay, used to say I live on Indian time.”
He took out a large key, unlocking a door leading to an empty room. Aghast, I asked, “This is a psychiatrist’s office?”
“I’m a hypnotherapist. Your mind creates what surrounds you.”
A small corner desk held a nameplate, “Bern Fireweed.” Two chairs faced each other.
“When do we start?”
“The moment I opened the door to your imagination.”
Not A Bad Deal by Neel Anil Panicker
By the time Chacko realized it was too late. Esther had taken over his life — lock, stock and barrel.
First, it began with a harmless, “Uncle, it’s just for two months. I need it for my exams. Your place is nearest to my college.”
He did mind the intrusion but eventually gave in. No harm getting some extra income, he surmised.
Before long, she was cooking him his favourite Goan chicken curry, reading him the morning newspapers, even running sundry errands for him.
Over time, she became his fireweed.
When he died a year later, the bungalow was hers.
Fireweed by Ritu Bhathal
“It’s hard to believe the carnage that happened here a short while ago.” Olivia looked around at the bombsite where once her home had stood.
Across the whole area, pretty purple flowers grew, giving the destroyed street a hazy filter.
“That rosebay willowherb has just taken over. It’ll take an age to clear it up too, before we can even think of rebuilding…” Janet sighed.
“Fireweed… that’s what they call that, across the Atlantic, where I’m from.” Chuck, the GI who had befriended them at the dance the night previously, said. “It sure loves a bit of burned ground!”
From Fire to Fireweed by Susan Sleggs
No fire had ever come close to our valley before. We could see the leaping yellow and red flames over the crest of the hill. We tied wet cloths over our faces to hand out water to firefighters in the dense smoke.
They said we were safe. We weren’t, but we had lots of warning compared to others and left with full cars.
Months later we returned with a builder who agreed to work around the original stone fireplace. Vibrant purple fireweed greeted us. The irony of the plants name made us laugh aloud. There had been enough tears.
Foraged from Ashes by Kate Spencer
“Here’s something. Remember the big wildfire that was in the news last year?” asked Jim rustling his newspaper.
“Yup,” said Gladys rolling the pastry dough.
“Well apparently this young couple spent their winter months felling and milling lifeless tree trunks from their barren woodlot.”
“What for? That charred looking grove will be filled with beautiful pink fireweed this summer.” Gladys placed the dough over the pie plate.
“They’re using all that lumber to make keepsakes and furniture for their friends and neighbours who lost more than they did.”
“My they got gumption. I like that!”
“I knew you would.”
Burning Love by Raymond Roy
The Blackfoot enemy took from me
My soulmate warrior
I am a Cree.
As a young Cree maiden
I fear no man
Blackfoot, Sioux or Shoshoni clan.
With cougar stealth I drew near
Within enemy earshot
No time for fear.
Through elk skin teepee catching wind of
Of my hearts own true love.
Setting forest aflame
The cowards fled
And there he was
Left for dead.
Lifting him up
With my strong Cree back
Soil burnt black.
Today the creator
Rewards my deed
For in my footsteps grows sacred fireweed.
Cora’s Fireweed by Liz Husebye Hartmann
September’s last rays paled as velvet breezes whispered of long nights to come. Cora nestled deeper into a warm hollow at cliff’s edge, ignoring the salt sway of the fjord below. Gripping her tail between front claws, she nibbled at fiery dreams.
Smallest in the clutch, she’d not found the final element to ensure her next passage. Jonah’d found lavender, Pete pine, and Minna bright marigold. Soon they, with their mother would migrate to the Northland to winter.
But what was her element?
Night sighed a hot pink scent.
Corazon’s triangular head lifted. Bugling once, her wings opened, joyful.
Fireweed by Ann Edall-Robson
For miles in every direction, there is nothing but death. Tall sentinels become charred, decrepit reminders of the devastation. Piles of ebony shin tangle across the expanse of bleak nothingness. The seasons change. Slight bits of green push through the blackened earth. Long wispy leaves on fibrous stocks. Tight pink buds open with a flourish. A brilliant contrast to the carnage, life after death. And when it is their turn to become the colours of their end, the Fireweed fluffs up against the odds. Sending offspring in search of a new home to brighten the landscape after a wildfire.
Ground Cover by D. Avery
Though she didn’t know him, she climbed the granite boulder underneath the craggy maple and sat with him looking over the hayfield.
A beautiful quilt he said, the red and orange paintbrush, the blue chicory. She loved how he spoke, but bluntly informed him those were weeds that covered poor soil. Then she blushed; the weeds exposed her family’s poverty, her father’s laziness and ineptitude. This field should be green, not the color of scars and bruises.
She noted his backpack and tightly rolled sleeping bag. “Don’t go yet”, she instructed him. “I need to get a few things.”
Peripheral by Abby Rowe
The lawn party is in full swing. From the margins, I watch the beautiful people, mingling perfumes, coloured frocks, laughter. I’m bored yet intrigued. Idly wondering if they were born belonging.
Over on the other side a woman meets my eye. Spiky-haired and trousered, nothing flows about her. She grins, wryly.
Beyond the hedge are rippling fields of wheat, prolific and homogenous. But skirting the borders, distinct and wild, rosebay willowherb stands noble in the breeze. Why is the truly lovely called a weed?
I smile back and raise my glass. Start to wend my way around the edge.
Counterfeit Coffee by Denise Aileen DeVries
Myra Jean examined the cup placed before her on the slightly chipped saucer. It was the boardinghouse best, Confederate-era china, hand-painted with blossoms resembling fireweed. “I’ve saved this chicory from my last visit home,” Lucinda Ryan explained. As Myra Jean stirred in honey and milk, always plentiful here, the color changed to a murky gray. The first sip was better than expected, especially compared to the usual Postum and acorn concoctions. “My folks always drank this, even before the Great War.” The two women cradled their cups in both hands, warming their fingers.
“I remember coffee,” Myra Jean said.
Follow the Fireweed by Pete Fanning
I have dreams about stabbing my personal trainer in the back. Yep, it’s true, just plunging a knife right between one of her many thick, grooved back muscles.
I also have dreams about Twinkies. Pie. Chocolate donuts with chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles. But mostly I dream about stabbing my trainer in the back.
A fireweed. That’s what they called her when I signed up. And it should have been enough to make me turn and haul my jiggly self out the door. But for years I’ve wanted this—dreamed about it.
So I run. I follow the fireweed.
It’s All There, On A Plate by Geoff Le Pard
‘Hey Morgan, what you got?’
‘Geez, that’s huge. Hey, it’s got a trunk.’
‘Yeah, it’s an elephant hawk moth.’
‘Must be really rare.’
‘Yeah, but you know it lives on a really common plant.’
‘Funny. The Queen likes cornflakes.’
‘Is that so, Logan?’
‘And Jeremy Corbyn’s into quinoa.’
‘You just can’t tell from what they eat.’
‘We’re all the same under the skin.’
‘They say Trump only eats Mac burgers and fries.’
‘There has to be the exception that proves the rule.’
‘Never did understand that expression.’
‘Any more than I understand Trump.’
New Boy by Anne Goodwin
After lunch, I followed the other kids to the wasteground behind the … parking lot (not car park). I could still taste the new words I’d learnt at the table – eggplant; zucchini; rutabaga – as I loaded my arms with logs. My classmates smirked as they glanced my way, but I imagined Mum (Mom) reminding me I wouldn’t be new for ever.
“So what’s this?” said Miss Mills.
“Firewood. Like you asked for.”
She smiled as she stuck a bunch of rosebay willow herb in a jar.
“I asked for fireweed. But don’t worry, you’ll learn English soon.”
Australian Fireweed by Michael
It’s everywhere round here, it grows prolifically in the back paddock though at present it’s very dry and the plants and pastures are struggling.
In good times it grows in fields of yellow but it’s a nuisance as the cattle bypass it. The Pastures Protection Board consider it a pest.
Sometimes the farmer comes by, hoe in hand and chips them out. He’ll nod to me across the fence make derogatory remarks about spending his time chipping when there is so much more to do.
But next year the fireweed will reappear, and we’ll nod to each other again.
Dot by Bill Engleson
“Dot, you have your assignment.”
“Louis, I know she’s your favourite but, really, she’s not listening.”
“I know, Freddy. But I like to think my tone of love, of respect, somehow has an impact…”
“Sure. You’re one sensitive zoologist. A credit to scientists everywhere. But it’s not Dot’s assignment, it’s ours.”
“Lighten up. You’re not the one eating this stuff.”
“Stuff? Fireweed is not stuff! Its chamerion augustifolium, as you well know.”
“Holy herbivore, Freddy. We’re in the field with two hundred sheep chowing down on acres of vegetation. Research, yes, but tedious.”
“Fine, but please stop cuddling her.”
Fireweed by Pensitivity
Mum loved flowers and I’d gather daisies, buttercups and snowdrops from hedgerows and fields for her when I saw them.
She would gush about the banks of roadside daffodils on our outings, though we never stopped to pick them as there were notices up that they were to be enjoyed, not taken.
One particular day I came across a mass of long stemmed flowers. I had no idea what they were but thought Mum would like them, so carefully pulled a couple up by the roots and took them home. They spread like wildfire and took over the garden!
Angusto Animi by JulesPaige
They were the new colonists. Escaping from overcrowding,
indecisive politics, and diminished resources. They were
branded the Fireweeds. On a set course to wake into a
distant future, to hopefully send back anything that might
One thing good about the mind is that most thoughts were
unreadable. The crew of the Fireweed had been selected
partly on their ability to communicate through telepathy.
This crew however was smarter than the average bear –
they also knew how to protect their thoughts from
unwanted probing. Which was for the mutinous crew a
good thing. Since they were only for themselves.
Fireweed by Jeremy Zagarella
Some boys love girls and others love money, but John loved one pure thing – fire.
At six years old he stole a match from the kitchen drawer and lit it in the backyard.
Matches lead to lighters, and, as a 19-year-old American Indian boy, he had set dozens of wildfires without being detected.
After it started, the fire crews would show up. The news media, smoke, purging – it all gave him such a thrill. It needed a fresh start.
Months after all the commotion, he would return to the site to see his favorite part – fireweed popping like candy.
In the Wake of Fire by D. Avery
I’ll never forget seeing acres and acres of burned forest. Some charred trunks still standing, silent memorials amidst a resounding choir of color, the purples and reds of riotous fireweed echoing brightly. The tree trunks intoned their past trauma as the fireweed sang the refrain of resilience. It was beautiful and it was ugly. It was awesome and it was eerie. It was quiet and loud. Back in the truck I stared out the window at this powerfully incongruous scene for miles. Later the memory would appear unbidden, and whisper reminders of the immeasurable capacities of the human spirit.
The Fireweed Fairies by Juliet Nubel
It took almost a year for the fireweed to cover the large circle of blackened grass.
On the first of May, for over thirty years, they had lit the huge pile of sticks, watching the flames lick the sky as their guests cheered in time to the blaring music.
But this year there would be no fire, no music, no feasting friends.
This year the fireweed fairies could continue their march.
They could stray outside the circle, across the field, down to the cemetery.
And there they could dance forever more on the gravel path leading to her grave.
Sanctuary by Sue Vincent
The glade is smaller than she remembers. Screened from view by the gnarled oak and a bank of fireweed, it had been her sanctuary, a place to which she could run and hide. A place to dream of a future she herself could shape.
A child ‘should be seen but not heard’… but now she is a woman.
The roots of the oak have grown around the marker stone. The manicured nails tear as she digs. It is still here, where she had left it all those years ago… waiting for this day. She will be silent no longer…
Castles and Carpeting by Wallie & Friend
The castle was different. The hanging weapons were taken from the walls and replaced with classical paintings. The dungeon was carpeted and clean. But ghosts are like fireweed, and I could see them in the eyes of my companion.
“Let’s go,” I said.
He stopped me. He looked into the prison cell, cheerless even in 100 watt lighting, his hand resting on the grate. I wondered what he was remembering but was afraid to ask, to test him. His hand quivered on the iron bars.
“They don’t know,” he said. “They don’t know what it was like.”
The Midnight Raid by Anurag Bakhshi
The midnight raid had been swift and brutal, totally catching us unawares. They had sucked us out of our secret hiding places using weapons we had never encountered before.
I watched helplessly as they captured my friends, my family, while I hid and waited for my turn.
I knew that I would not be able to hold out for too long, but I also knew that at least some of us would survive. We were not that easy to keep down, we were like fireweed, we would grow again, stronger than ever before, and then….the Ghostbusters would pay.
Fireweed by Rebecca Glaessner
My private aug showed ages beside every face in the room, but maintained each digitally overlaid, customisable appearance.
“Miss-“ the one hundred and forty-three earth-year old who didn’t look a day over twenty.
“Doctor,” I corrected.
Doubt flashed across all faces.
“Project Fireweed will be swift and precise,” I announced to the group, “replacing current programming with our new system. Individuals deserve privacy once more.”
Everyone sat up in outrage.
“A complete overhaul is insane-”
“Do you even know if it’ll work-”
I raised a hand for silence.
“Can anyone see my age?” I asked.
A New Identity by Molly Stevens
He can’t explain why his mother chose his name. She said it was because he had a tuft of blond hair on the top of his head when he was born – like a dandelion. Was she suffering from postpartum depression when she inked the name, ‘Weed’ on his birth certificate?
He didn’t realize his name was odd until he ventured beyond Mother’s apron strings. That’s when the teasing began and taunting became a daily torture.
One day he looked in the mirror, tamed his blond plumage, and said, “You’re fired, Weed.” And he changed his name to Dan.
Plantae uel Animalia by Chelsea Ownes
If you were to assign a flower to my childhood personality, you might search among the less-desirable weeds. I wouldn’t have minded; I’d have stuck my prickly, unwanted self even further into your business.
My grandmother, however, was a soft-spoken, kind-thinking sort. I never heard her raise her voice nor speak insult. She was more like the gently-swaying field flowers of springtime, shyly smiling to a beckoning sun.
While people greeted my coming akin to a dandelion outbreak, we all recall my grandmother’s mischievous blue eyes with forget-me-nots.
At least dandelions are my son’s favorite.
Fireweed by Pete Fanning
Miles blamed his friends. What on Earth did they have in common? It was chilly outside, and he was sitting on the hood of a Toyota, watching a girl with dreadlocks roll a joint.
“This is good shit,” Ava said with a lick and a flourish. “It’s called fireweed.”
Miles coughed. He got very high. He went on about a Neil deGrass Tyson book.
Ava yawned. She lay back against the windshield, pointed to Jupiter, some five-hundred million miles above their heads. Miles sat next to her, found Mars. Ava giggled.
“See, the sky is better than the book.”
Fireweed (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
“Well, at least you got out of it. You corrected your mistake.”
“That marriage wasn’t a mistake,” Jane says.
The counselor raises her eyebrows.” Oppression, abuse…how was it not a mistake to marry a man like that? Not that I’m blaming you. You couldn’t have known.”
“Our daughter,” Jane says. “Only he and I together could have made that wonderful human being. Without him, I wouldn’t have her. She’s the fireweed that redeems it all.”
“Your daughter? Didn’t know you had a daughter. Where is she?”
Jane looks at the floor, silent. That’s a volcano all its own.
Life Comes Back (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Spears of purple lined the narrow two-track. Tall dead trees stood like charred sentinels, remaining witnesses to the last forest fire.
“Life comes back,” Danni spoke to no one in particular. Her only companions were three dogs on leash, each tugging a different direction.
At the site of the dig from two years ago, Danni hiked the ridge to her former perch. Any moment she expected Ike to rumble up the road in his truck. Yet there she was with his dogs. She opened the can and spread the ashes, hoping fireweed would find its way into her heart.
Regeneration by Paula Moyer
For two years after Charley left her, Jean’s heart couldn’t grow fireweed. Even when she tried to love – nothing. Only ruined pulp remained.
Then she moved to Minnesota, started graduate school. And met Michael. She loved all of him – East Coast, Italian-American, laughed at her jokes, her Southern accent.
“We’re the only early risers!” he greeted Jean one morning in the dorm’s cafeteria.
Not the best choice. He was gay. Couldn’t even admit it – the seventies.
At first, Jean didn’t need to be loved back. To know love could sprout, flourish, from her burnt, scarred core – was enough.
Greener Pastures by Sarah Whiley
She was my fireweed*. Able to grow in any soil, in all aspects. Persistent if not controlled, and rapidly taking over neglected pastures. She competed strongly with those around her, and was extremely toxic.
I could feel her tendrils taking hold. Coiling themselves around my brain; trying to find an ‘in’ to feed her tap root. But I was not the only one and it was time for us to take control.
It turns out a dense cover can help reduce fireweed. So we took a stand together, covering the bare, exposed patches of ourselves, to become greener pastures.
*(Author’s Note: The fireweed I have used for the purpose of this challenge is the Australian variety. It is highly invasive and toxic as outlined here.)
Fireweed by Robbie Cheadle
The girl slumped on the floor outside the grocery store. Busy shoppers rushed in and out, barely affording her so much as a sideways glance. She was quite beautiful despite her unkempt hair which was wild and matted. Her eyes rolled wildly in her head showing their whites, like a horse before it bolts.
Her hands shook violently as she reached out to take the coffee and cake I held out to her. The coffee slopped over the sides of the cup as the aftermath of last nights fireweed manifested in her body as it tore her mind apart.
Fireweed by Old Jules
“Lord, just let me get through this. I’ll never do that crap again.” I changed positions and savored the hand of my only source of comfort. Suzanne, my patient, devoted wife.
“What was it? What went wrong?” She was a tower of strength. She’d had an enduringly bad trip the only time she smoked jade.
“Fireweed, babe.” I tried to imagine my head chained to the floor. “Paraquat. They sprayed it on the crop in Mexico.”
Forever came and went but she stayed. “Are you coming down at all yet?” Her tension spoke through her fingers over my forehead.
Fireweed By ngrant41
Fireweed prefers disturbed ground
after fire and fury tear through the land
scorching the earth’s tired soil on the banks
of polluted waters where roses and willows
have failed to thrive in the chaos where trees
turned to ash blow away in the violent winds
of unsolicited change the heat and dry hunger
starving every life form the only color willing
to risk a comeback the pink and lavender
resistance pushing roots into rubble insistent
that life and beauty will persist creating
the next blooming revolution along the road into
the rose garden and all around the white house.
Fireweed by Reena Saxena
The patriarch of the family suffered from Alzheimer’s, and his wife had just passed away. He overheard that certain valuables were missing, when her cupboard was opened, and it generated wild guesses and allegations of robbery.
“Why do you think should they get all the benefits? They have grabbed enough in the mother’s lifetime.”
“I did not think about it so far. But why should I not benefit? We are all entitled to an equal share in the assets.”
Greed was spreading like a fireweed. In his fading memory, they were not the children he had known all along.
Euphoric Wish? by JulesPaige
Was it Wabi Sabi, that ancient process of birth and renewal in
the guise of twisting fireweed, to take over the valley? Norma,
just a visitor, stood transfixed. Urged by some profane tug this
spring Wednesday – to see what the updraft of fire had
left. The professional naturalist, did a quick assessment.
The news headlines had shown two boys who had come from
the local school that, was octagonally shaped. They skipped
out of their lunch, smirking with the joy of freedom, that fall
afternoon. Yet their black and white faces showed compunction
for the destruction they had caused.
Burning with Hope by Norah Colvin
Miss R. avoided the staffroom’s negativity, popping in, like today, only if necessary. When she glanced over instinctively on hearing her name, regret flooded immediately.
“Annette, we were just talking about you and that weed–from that noxious family–you know, Marnie-“
She bristled, failing to withhold the words that exploded, singeing all with their ferocity.
“Just look at yourselves. If Marnie’s a weed, she’s fireweed. Better than you will ever be. She’ll beat her odds and succeed, despite your belittling words and unhelpful opinions.”
She left the silenced room, believing in her heart that her words were true.
Land Reclaimed! By Ruchira Khanna
“Hurry!!” hollered Mother Earth to Wind
The Wind huffed and puffed, and silenced the fire.
Mother Earth rolled her eyes,”I wish mankind could get a little responsible since this is their only home!”
It left a sooty smell, and the soil was charred. The air was grim that even she had to gasp for air.
“It’s ruined!” he said in a dejected tone.
“Not when I am around!” Mother Earth winked, and she was quick to wave a hand over it. Vibrant colored fireweed started colonizing the disturbed site with the hope that it will reestablish vegetation.
Sea of Purple by Heather Gonzalez
As a child, I used to lie amongst the fireweeds and stare up at the sky. I would float away in the sea of purple, pretending to be just another flower petal in the wind. Even though time may have changed many things, the fireweeds still remained.
As an adult, I built my home amongst the purple waves. Generations came after me. When I was gone, my children made sure that I had one last ride on the sea of purple as they spread my ashes in the wind outside of my home. I floated away with the breeze.
Fireweed by jackschuyler
By midday, we had reached the burnt patch. The earth was soft, and fireweed had already sprung up around charred stumps. I kicked a clump and it dislodged from the loose soil, sending grey eddies spiraling into the air. I stopped.
“What is it, chief?”
Dark clouds spilled over the mountain, crawling down the pass like black salamanders.
I lifted an arm to the ominous skies, “That rainstorm’ll push this ash right off the mountain side. Our wagons won’t make the climb.”
“Should I tell the train to unpack, chief?”
I nodded, “We’ll have to camp here and wait.”
The Fireweed by Lisa Listwa
Burned trees and scorched earth tell the story of what happened here.
I can barely recall details of people, names, and places once so intimately familiar, nor the life that was, for a time, lush and green as the woods. A flash – a single moment – and everything changed. This once-thriving forest is now unrecognizable.
Fire consumes all.
I can see smoke rise from the embers of the life I once lived.
And where there is smoke, there will be fireweed thriving in places touched by flame.
I used to be someone else. Now I am the fireweed.
Any Other Name by D. Avery
“How long you been here on the ranch Pal?”
“My whole life.”
*I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain*.”
“That was kinda weird Pal, and stealing song lyrics too.”
“Yep, but that’s where I went, Kid. It was a lonesome place an’ I was all alone an’ never felt lonely.”
“Gotta point, Pal?”
“Not sure, Kid. ‘Cept ta say there’s flowers in the desert.”