When to take fireweed photos in Juneau Alaska
Southeast Alaska is famous for many things: rain, fishing, xtratuff rubber boots. Many of these things locals grow accustomed to, and are just apart of southeast alaska living. However, fireweed season is something locals look forward to every year with bittersweet emotion. Fireweed season is perhaps the most beautiful time of the year in the region, but it also marks the end of summer, and the slow decline of daylight. Lovers of nature and beauty will go out of their way to enjoy the fireweeds, and photographers in particular will try to capture as many images of, in, and around the fireweeds as possible, myself included.
A little bit about fireweeds
The name fireweed comes from its ability to quickly colonize areas recently burned by fire. After a wildfire, it is usually one of the first flowers to pop up and spread beauty back to these newly barren areas. In fact, they are well known for being among the first blooms after the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980 and after the bombing of London in World War 2. I feel like there is something especially poetic about a wildflower that blooms in the wake of tragedy and destruction.
Fireweeds, which are not actually weeds, bloom throughout many northern states and through southern and central Canada, as well as parts of Europe. But, because of the lack of urban development in southeast Alaska, southcentral Alaska, and western Canada, they are especially prevalent in these regions. They often pop up in clear cut areas, meadows, along streams, on roadsides and on the edge of forests. Fireweed is the official flower of Canada’s Yukon territory.
When do fireweeds bloom?
When fireweeds bloom depends on the weather and climate. Summers are unpredictable in southeast and southcentral Alaska, especially with global warming trends; some summers there is hardly any clear warm days, and some summers there are weeks of high temperatures and droughts. On average though, the fireweeds bloom anytime between early July through mid-September, hitting their peak between mid-July and mid-August.
The changing colors of the fireweeds
As summer comes to an end and fall arrives, the fireweeds turn from bright blooming fuscia flowers, to tall stalks that are more pink-red-brown, or ‘salmon’ in color, which lasts very briefly, usually a week or two. Then eventually as the fireweeds go to seed, they take on a white wispy spider web cotton look. This usually begins in mid to late August and lasts through September or even October if we’re lucky. This is actually my favorite time to take photos in the fireweed as it provides a moody ethereal look.
Fireweeds: Alaska’s Groundhog
Fireweed season is something locals look forward to every year with bittersweet emotions. Fireweed season is perhaps the most beautiful time of the year in the region, but it also marks the end of summer, and the slow decline of daylight. The fireweed blooms from the bottom up, and any good Alaskan can tell you that you can tell how soon fall will arrive by how far up the stalk the fireweed has bloomed. When the flowers turn from its traditional bold purple-pink color to a reddish-brown, you know fall is near. When it turns to a wispy white, you know fall has arrived. Eventually the white will fade and the fireweed will be turn brown until it wilts and dies. Alaska native legend has it that when the top of the fireweed blooms, winter will arrive in 6 weeks.
Fireweeds and Native Traditions
Fireweeds were important to the Dena’ina of southcentral Alaska and other indigenous peoples around the world. High in vitamins A and C, tea was made from their leaves, the shoots were eaten as vegetables, and nectar was taken from the flowers. High-ranking native families in British Columbia even owned choice patches of fireweeds. Today, harvesting fireweed nectar to make fireweed honey, jelly, and syrup is a popular subsistence activity, and these good can often be found in markets across Alaska.
To see more photos in the fireweeds check out my portfolios
To learn more about when the fireweeds bloom in Alaska, see the following sources:
When do fireweeds bloom in Alaska
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