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Epilobium angustifolium - L.

Common Name Willow Herb
Family Onagraceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards An infusion of the leaves is said to stupefy a person[4].
Habitats Rocky ground, waste areas, woodland edges and gardens[7, 13].
Range Europe, including Britain, temperate Asia and N. America.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Epilobium angustifolium Willow Herb

Epilobium angustifolium Willow Herb


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Epilobium angustifolium is a PERENNIAL growing to 2 m (6ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Chamaenerion angustifolium.


Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Meadow;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Root  Stem
Edible Uses: Tea

Leaves and young shoot tips - raw or cooked[2, 5, 12, 62, 172, 183]. They can be used in salads or cooked as a vegetable[9]. When boiled they make a wholesome vegetable and are a good source of vitamins A and C[2, 257]. Only use the leaves when they are young[85]. Although they are said to be edible, another report says that an infusion of them can stupefy[4]. Young shoots - cooked. They make a good asparagus substitute[2, 9, 183, 213]. Root - raw, cooked or dried and ground into a powder[74, 172]. Used in spring, it has a sweet taste[12, 74]. Flower stalks - raw or cooked[85, 106, 172, 183]. Added to salads, they are used when the flowers are in bud[183]. The pith of young or older stems - raw or cooked[62, 99, 183]. Slightly sweet, tender and pleasing to eat, though there is not much of it[85, 172]. Gelatinous[161], it can be used as a flavouring in soups[183]. The stems are said to be a good laxative, but are best not eaten on an empty stomach[256]. A tea is made from the dried leaves[9, 62, 85, 94, 183], it is sweet and pleasant[172]. Called 'kaporie' tea in Russia, it contains 10% tannin[222]. The leaves are also used as an adulterant of China tea[2].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiinflammatory  Antispasmodic  Astringent  Demulcent  Emollient  Hypnotic  Laxative  Poultice  

Willow herb is often used as a domestic herbal remedy, though it is little used in conventional herbalism. The herb is antispasmodic, astringent, demulcent, emollient, hypnotic, laxative and tonic[4, 7, 172, 192]. It is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, mucous colitis and irritable bowel syndrome[254]. The plant is used in Germany and Austria to treat prostate problems[254]. A poultice of the leaves is applied to mouth ulcers[222]. An extract of the leaves has anti-inflammatory activity[222]. An ointment made from the leaves has been used to soothe skin problems in children[254]. A tea made from the leaves and roots is a folk remedy for dysentery and abdominal cramps[222]. A poultice made from the peeled roots is applied to burns, skin sores, swellings, boils etc[222, 257].

Other Uses

Fibre  Stuffing  Tinder  Weather protection

A fibre obtained from the outer stems is used to make cordage[99, 207, 256]. The 'cottony' seed hairs are used as a stuffing material[99, 118] or as a tinder[106, 172]. The powdered inner cortex is applied to the hands and face to give protection from the cold[99, 172, 257].

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant, it prefers a well-drained but moisture retentive soil in a sunny position[200], though it succeeds in most soils[1]. It prefers a moist soil[111], but also succeeds on dry banks[188]. It is best grown in open woodland[1]. Plants are hardy to at least -20°c[187]. The rosebay willowherb spreads vigorously by means of a creeping rhizome, and often forms large patches[187]. It is apt to become a weed especially through its seed which is very light and capable of travelling long distances in the wind. It is often one of the first plants to colonize disturbed areas such as scenes of fires[1, 200]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is the floral emblem of the Yukon[172]. A food plant for the caterpillars of several lepidoptera species[24], it is also a good bee plant[74, 94].

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Seed - sow early spring in situ or as soon as the seed is ripe[111]. This plant is more than capable of finding its own way into most gardens and does not usually require an invitation. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Rose bay, Fireweed, Willow Herb, Great willowherb, French willow, Almaruat, Kaporuski, Vrbolika,

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Alaska, Australia, Balkans, Bosnia, Britain, Canada, Estonia, Europe, Iceland, India, Ireland, North America, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, USA.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Epilobium angustifolium (Great Willow Herb) Status: Least Concern

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Epilobium coloratumPurpleleaf willowherb10
Epilobium glabellum 11
Epilobium hirsutumCodlins And Cream21
Epilobium latifoliumRiver Beauty32
Epilobium macranthum 11
Epilobium palustreMarsh Willow Herb10
Epilobium parviflorumCodlins And Cream, Smallflower hairy willowherb20
Epilobium pyrricholophum 10
Epilobium tetragonumSquare-Stemmed Willow Herb10


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Alexander Proot   Sat Dec 29 2007

I believe it's important to add the other comon scientific name of this plant: Chamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub

   May 24 2012 12:00AM

This plant *cured* me of prostate pain. It is better than saw palmetto, which only treats the symptoms.

   May 24 2012 12:00AM

Epilobium parviflorum is the exact species (its still willow herb!) I used. It's a VERY effective cure. Although its a special use, its great for that use... I'd put the medicinal rating at 5.

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