Fireweed doing weird things in Pedro Bay

Asked July 26, 2019, 10:34 PM EDT

Any explanation for why the fireweed is producing stalks with unusual configurations like in the photos below. Two blade like stalk tops and bulbs. Besides the fireweed blossoms being earlier than usual and much taller than usual I've also noticed fireweed stalks that have extra "branches" of stalks coming off the main stalk. They look more like little delicate trees. Do you what is causing these abnormalities?

Lake and Peninsula Borough Alaska fireweed

8 Responses

I suspect this is a combination of things. I see what appears to be thrip damage on the leaves. It may be a response to thrip damage or the thrips might have introduced a virus that caused the unusual growth.

mmm. I looked up thrip. Everything I read talks about it being a problem in greenhouses and indoor/outdoor gardens. Nothing about affecting wild plants/flowers. And why only on a few plants? Any other ideas?

One possibility might be exposure to herbicide. In fact, the more I think about it, I'll bet that's what the problem is.

I doubt its herbacides. No one in Pedro Bay uses them. The fireweed pics were taken in an open area. They grow wild. THey've not done this before. Any other ideas? Could it be the unusually warm/hot summer days...But why only in one spot. The branching fireweed I also mentioned (see picture) I see in many places...along the road, in open fields. This is the first year folks around here have ever seen fireweed anomalies like this. There must be some explanation.

This one has me stumped. I don't think it was the heat or it would be more widespread I think.

A friend sent me this link which is a good explanation for the flattened fireweed stalk. You might track down Pat, the horticulturist at UAF and run my questions by her.

I think the branching is likely from moose or other animals foraging on the stalks which grow back with branches. Thrips or some other insect related damage that produces galls or other abnormalities in growth is likely also what you see. I didn't see anything that looks much like herbicide damage.

Thanks for you reply. It's possible it could be moose munching caused but odd this is the first year ever I've seen anything like this.