Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) is a native plant that grows in many places in the U.S. It is found well up into the mountains and is a hardy pioneer species, readily sprouting and taking hold in disturbed areas, especially along highways, railroads, and old burns. It gets its name from the fact that it is often one of the first plants to grow in a burned-out area. The tall spikes of rose to purple flowers bloom June through September. Although this plant is a wild perennial, the flowers quickly wither away and are replaced by long, narrow seedpods.
In the fall the seedpods split lengthwise, releasing hundreds of small seeds, each tipped with fluffy, white tufts of hair. These seeds are readily dispersed by the wind and can travel a considerable distance; the seed hairs have been used as a stuffing material or as tinder.