One of the best kept secrets of Alaska is the wildflower that blazes across the fields and roadsides called fireweed.
Fireweed flower stalks sport a column of buds that open from the bottom up. As the Summer wears on, the bottom blooms turns into seed pods and towards late Summer and early Fall, the entire flower stalk sports white floss attached to the seeds. Alaskans mark time with fireweed. An Alaska saying goes "when the fireweed turns to cotton, Summer is soon forgotten."
The Fireweed gets its name because it grows very well especially in areas after a fire has cleared away the vegetation. Fireweed is therefore a pioneer species because it is often the first to colonize clear areas where competition is low.
The first time I saw fireweed I was dumbfounded. Vast fields were blanketed with bright fuchsia spikes greeted us along the drive from Anchorage to Cooper Landing. Wherever we could, we stopped to take pictures. Some say the fireweed should be Alaska's state flower. I wholeheartedly agree!