This is classed as one of the “pioneer plants”, that is it is one of the first plants to take hold on barren land. It is also known as fireweed because of its ability to grow on the sites of recent bonfires and it is thought that the heat actually helps the seeds to germinate. After the London Blitz it was one of the first plants on the scene and was sometimes referred to as Bombweed. It is undoubtedly striking with its tall stems, bright pink flowers, leaves arranged in a spiral staircase pattern and long seed pods. It is also the main food source for the distinctive elephant hawk moth caterpillar which will often be found crawling along the ground at this time of year looking for somewhere to pupate over winter.
The young leaves of Rosebay Willow Herb can be added to salads and the stems blanched in boiling water and added to casseroles. The pith is easily extracted from the raw stems and tastes sweet with a slightly peppery aftertaste. This is a good herb for men and is used to treat problems of the prostate gland. It has anti inflammatory properties and can be beneficial for diarrhoea and stomach cramps as well. The root or leaves can be prepared as a tea and drunk a couple of times a day. — at Peak District National Park.