The plant often branches and grows in a clump with multiple stems. This plant grows generally on coastal or meadow sites and is resistant to urban conditions.
American burnweed is in the Asteraceae (daisy) family. It prefers man-made or disturbed habitats(roadsides, railway lines, ditches), coastal areas, shores of lakes and rivers, meadows and fields, wetland margins. It is often found in sites associated with beaver activities causing cyclical flooding and drainage and is a common landscape weed. Population explosions may occur in these habitats after human-induced disturbances or other conditions where competition is reduced, but they generally die back as natural succession leads to less open environments.
Flower heads of American burnweed are held upright, whereas thickhead flowers droop downward. Plants flower in summer to early fall then die after frost. Seeds are wind-dispersed and can produce multiple generations each growing season. This species benefits from fire and is often one of the earliest pioneer species of areas that have recently burned, hence some of its common names. It prefers moist sites but can handle gravelly soil and some degree of dry conditions. It also grows well in urban areas and around humans.
American burnweed is well managed by broad-spectrum herbicides but most single-active ingredient herbicides are less effective.
American burnweed has several medicinal properties. The oil derived from the plant is used to treat wounds, hemorrhages, poison ivy rashes and other ailments, such as piles. This plant is particularly efficient in assimilating atmospheric nitrogen dioxide, an important greenhouse gas, and rendering it to its organic form.
American burnweed can easily be hand weeded, taking advantage of its shallow root system. Hoeing or cultivation is also effective to control smaller populations. Large populations can be controlled by applying broadleaf herbicides containing 2,4-D and triclopyr, other broad-spectrum selective herbicides or a non-selective herbicide, such as glyphosate or glufosinate.
American Burnweed Identification and Growth Habits
As a weed, it can compete and interfere with certain crops, such as blueberries and strawberries, bringing about economic losses. It can also reduce the aesthetic attributes of the landscape where it’s growing. The scent of a crushed plant can be unpleasant to some, but the sap does not trigger any rashes or other allergic reactions.
Have you ever had a tall weed that grew so quickly it seemed to appear in your yard overnight? There’s a good chance that speedy weed is American burnweed, and your yard is probably not the only one it has popped up in. American burnweed (Erechtites hieraciifolius), also known as fireweed, is a fast-growing, annual weed commonly spotted in gardens and fields around West Virginia in late August and early September.
This shallow rooted, herbaceous plant grows under a wide range of conditions in disturbed habitats. The stems are brittle with large basal leaves and deeply serrated upper leaves. It is a relatively benign weed, prone to removal by hand thanks to shallow, fibrous roots attached to a short taproot. It produces numerous cup-shaped flowers in the axil, enclosing densely arranged disc florets in a cylindrical calyx. When the flowers bloom, they display a cluster of silvery hairs attached to tiny seeds. This weed is considered to be native to the forest zones of North America and can stretch to 8 to 10 feet high under ideal growing conditions.