Fireweed: Alaska's Summer Calendar

Tuesday, July 9, 2024 4:00 PM by Travel Juneau

The familiar deep pink fireweed that is blooming around Juneau right now serves as Juneau’s calendar of how much summer is left. Plants continue to grow into June and blossoms begin to form. Fireweed starts blooming from the base of the flower moving to the top of the stalk as leaves become red-tinged yellow.

When bloomed out, local lore says that from this point, we have six weeks until winter. Of course, as with all plants and all years, it varies. Sunny points tend to finish blooming before shady spots. Some years it is earlier than past years or later than usual. But no matter the personal observations, fireweed remains a reminder of summer’s fleeting nature as locals watch the blooms climb the stems.

Growing in swaths across town, most importantly at Brotherhood Bridge with its stunning view of a crisp, blue Mendenhall Glacier in the background, these blossoms hold so much more than just the beauty of summer’s warmth and the march toward fall. Beginning in spring, foragers harvest fireweed shoots as one of the early greens available from the land.

Later in the summer, Alaskans selectively pick petals from yards or waysides taking care to leave them where the display may delight passersby as they use them for crafting pink, floral-smelling jellies and teas.

Fireweed are resilient. As the seed pods appear and dry out – by weather or by heat due to forest fires in the interior – their long pods split exposing the small fluffy seeds to winds that carry them to new areas.

Fireweed is our reminder that the sunlight will wane, and cooler days are coming. We admire the beauty and yet heed the warning to maximize our days before winter comes.

Author: Travel Juneau

One of the amazing members of the Travel Juneau staff spent days and days researching and writing this ridiculously awesome post without even stopping for a sip of water or a moment of shut eye. That's okay, we love our visitors so much we feel it was worth it. We hope you enjoy!