Plants in Winter: Cinnamon Willow Herb

by Carl Strang

Last winter I started a series of posts on winter botany. I had been thinking about resuming it, and then earlier this week the issue was forced. I used a route I may never have taken before to pass between Mayslake Forest Preserve’s south stream corridor prairie and the mansion grounds, and found myself walking through a scattered array of cinnamon willow herb plants. They were delicate and beautiful.

The willow herbs are close relatives of the showy fireweeds common elsewhere on the continent.

Unfortunately, the photos of entire plants flatten them out too much, and don’t convey the impression I would like to share.

The opened slender seed pods at the tips give the plants a feathery appearance.

A close-up of one of the tips comes closest to showing the distinctive spray of the open pods.

Close up, you can see a few seeds still clinging to one of the pods.

Here is what the plant looks like when flowering.

The flowers of this late-season bloomer are small.

The cinnamon willow herb is the most common member of its genus in northeast Illinois. Usually it grows in open moist areas. Beyond that I am afraid my knowledge of it is limited.

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