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All plants have evolved to thrive in specific environments. Not all plants require nutrient-rich soil to grow, and some actually grow better in places that contain low organic content.
Image: A Dwarf Fireweed plant
Why this species is important
Dwarf Fireweed (its scientific name being Chamerion latifoliumi) is a flowering plant that grows in sandy and gravelly moist soil. Often found growing along the banks of rivers and streams, this species has the largest flowers of any flowering plant in the Canadian Arctic. It is often called “river beauty”, referring to its abundant purple-pink flowers.
Different plants have different strategies for distributing their seeds. Dwarf Fireweed plants use very small seeds that can easily be carried by the wind. The higher the winds, the further these seeds can be distributed.
See how the seeds are distributed based on the wind speed. When there is little wind, only a small amount of Dwarf Fireweed seeds are dispersed. However, as the winds increase, numerous seeds are dispersed.
A fresh start
This colourful flower produces lightweight seeds that easily blow in the wind. With seeds that are so easily dispersed, this plant is able to rapidly spread and grow in areas that have recently been disturbed by natural or human forces such as flooding or road construction.
All of the above-ground parts of Dwarf Fireweed, from the leaves and flowers to its seeds, are edible and were traditionally eaten raw as well as cooked for nutrition and a variety of medicinal purposes.
Some plants are related to each other more closely than others. Because of this, scientists divide plant species into plant families. Dwarf Fireweed is in the Willowherb or Evening Primrose family, which also includes its plant cousins, Fuschia and Enchanter's Nightshade.
Dwarf Fireweed blowing in the wind
Watch Dwarf Fireweed blowing in the wind in the Arctic.
Transcript: Dwarf Fireweed blowing in the wind
A small patch of Dwarf Fireweed is growing near a rock, it is being swept gently by the breeze. A different shot of Dwarf Fireweed growing near a river bank, it is being swept by the wind. The plants cover the river bank. A different view of Dwarf Firewind being rocked by the wind, we can see the flowers up close.