Friday, March 27, 2015

Lessons from an Alaskan Wildflower

Growing up in Alaska, I was often struck by the beauty and abundance of wildflowers. Recently, I needed to do some research about Alaska's wildflowers for Beside Still Waters, Book Three in my Alaskan Waters series. I discovered that more delicate species than I realized survive Alaska's harsh winters to blossom each summer against extreme odds.

While I enjoyed the many varieties of wildflowers, one certain specie is so flamboyant it has stuck in my memory--my favorite, Alaskan fireweed. It grows in a variety of  temperate to Arctic ecosystems all over the state, which is larger than Texas, California, and Montana combined. From early June to late August fireweed dominates the landscape with its flaming magenta.

Do I, like fireweed, flourish and bring beauty wherever the Lord plants me?

Fireweed  Photo by Mike Lehmann/CC-BY-SA-3.0
Tall, smooth stems with scattered leaves and a spire filled with flowers stand erect and grow to 1 1/2 to 8 feet in height. The individual flowers have four petals that resemble tiny wild roses.

Flowers appear in early June. All of the buds are present on the stem in the spring and open from the bottom tier first. Alaskans say that when the top bud opens, summer is over.

The leaves look similar to a bay leaf. They are unique in that the veins are circular, forming loops that join together, a feature that makes it easy to distinguish from highly toxic plants it resembles before it flowers.

A single plant can bear as many as 80,000 seeds that are easily spread by the wind. Once established, the plant puts out extensive underground roots and can form a large patch.

Native peoples used the leaves, stems and roots for food and medicine. Today, candies, syrups, jellies, and even ice cream are made from fireweed flowers. Honey made primarily from fireweed nectar has a distinctive, spiced flavor.

Do I, like fireweed, nourish others in the kingdom of God? Am I dedicating my time, treasure, and talents to usefulness in His service? Am I scattering the seeds of God's Word? Am I rooted and grounded in Christ?

Fireweed after boreal fire in sub-Arctic Credit: Feng Sheng Hu
Fireweed grows in open fields, meadows, and particularly in burned-over lands. In fact, it derives its name from its tendency to quickly colonize burned sites after a forest fire. It can even reestablish vegetation following an oil spill.

When faced with devastating circumstances in my life, do I allow new growth to flourish in its aftermath, or do I wallow in the ugliness?

The plants flourish as long as there is ample open space and plenty of light. As trees and bushes grow larger, the plants die out. The seeds, however, remain dormant and quickly germinate whenever a new fire or other disturbance opens up the ground to the light again.

Fireweed reminds me that "to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:" (Ecclesiastes 22:1. There is a time for fireweed, and it fills its purpose in abundance. When its purpose is accomplished,.it remains dormant until it is needed again.

When my purpose is accomplished, do I graciously make way for another as fireweed does? Do I decrease so Christ can increase?

Jesus used many parables from nature to teach His truths. "Consider the lilies of the field," He said in Matthew 6:28-34 to teach us that the God who clothes and feeds the flowers and grass will surely take care of us so we need not worry. What has God taught you from His creation?


  1. What a wonderful lesson and comparison as we face life's challenges, AnnaLee. Thank you for your thought-provoking post.