Seen in the summer, rosebay willowherb (also known as Fireweed) is a tall spike of pink to purple flowers. Once the flowers die and autumn shuffles in, this is what you get. I’ve been watching it for a while wondering what it could be. Names like Old Man’s Beard floated around in the back of my mind. But old man’s beard is the wild clematis and its seed head is indeed like an old man’s beard – all scraggly and wiry, it doesn’t look at all like a badly packed bag of string and cotton wool.
One of the problems you face trying to explain to Google exactly what it is you would like to find, is that he has a great many pictures of the plant in full flower. In the summer I expect that this will be a very useful trait. Now, however I’m faced with buds, dead leaves and seed pods, all of which fail to excite contributors to wikipedia and other such aggregates of human knowledge.
But he came up trumps this time. A page from Wikipedia with, not just pictures of tall spears of rose coloured flowers, but also a picture (not as good as mine though) of the seed spreading stage of the plants growth.
Just up the road from here and hopefully upwind, although I didn’t check, is the paddock with the alpacas in. Reading about alpacas when I first discovered them, I found that for them, bracken and rosebay willowherb are poisonous. All the hedges surrounding the paddocks have been cleared back, leaving bare ground. Now, rosebay willowherb is a coloniser. There’s nothing it likes better than a nice clear plot. The hedges that have been removed were gorse, perhaps not very tasty – but reasonably harmless.
We do make problems for ourselves, don’t we?