The Yukon’s official flower doesn’t have a very romantic name. But this tall, elegant symbol of the territory is much more than a pretty picture on a travel brochure.
Fireweed comes by its name honestly. It’s among the first plants to bloom after a forest fire. Its seeds are survivors and its growth is prolific once a raging forest fire has past by. But consider the value of this colorful symbol you see all over the Yukon. It contains a sugary gel that can be obtained by splitting young stalks and scooping it out.
Fireweed has quite a few different names, depending on where it grows. French Canadian voyageurs called it l’herbe fret. They cooked the leaves and ate them as a substitute for greens. In Russia, fireweed leaves are boiled and the resulting liquid, called Kapor tea, is a refreshing and nourishing beverage. Try pouring hot water over young tender leaves. It makes a fine brew, but be sure it’s fireweed you are brewing. The tea is light green and quite sweet.
Fireweed is also known as great willow herb, blooming Sally, French willow and rosebay, again depending on where you are. Some people call it mooseweed, with good reason. Elk, moose and deer consider a stand of fireweed their field of dreams as they feast on the sweet stalks and tender leaves. In many places, beekeepers try and to grow fireweed near their beehives. You see, it makes a dark, sweet honey, which is superior in taste to that of almost every other flower.
The scientific word for fireweed is Epilobium angustifolium. Quite a mouthful. No wonder most people call it fireweed. That strange name simply means “ on the pod” and describes the way the flower sits on top of a long ovary, which becomes a seed pod or capsule. In mid-summer, fireweed sends out an airborne flotilla of silky seeds looking for a recent burned-out clearing.
So, the next time you spot an exquisite field of fireweed waving in a soft summer breeze, consider the fact that this colorful symbol of the Yukon is more that just 'another pretty face'.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
Moe Grant wasn’t born in the Yukon, but he arrived with his parents from Saskatchewan in 1929, when he was six months old. The family lived in Carcross and it was here that Moe developed his lifelong love of flying.
From the single-bay garage where he got his first job as a mechanic, Moe watched the busy gravel airstrip from which there seemed an endless parade of airplanes. Moe was hooked. In 1947, the teenager earned his pilot’s license.
He flew mostly for fun for the following fifty years. But, in 1950, his flying days nearly ended when he crashed his single-engine plane on an isolated mountain between Atlin and Carcross. Only the determined searching by Herman Peterson saved Moe from certain death.
He survived on the snow-covered mountain for five days before he was rescued. But his feet were frozen and he lost both legs in the ordeal. However, that did not stop him from flying well into his seventies. He didn’t officially retire until last year, when he was inducted as a pioneer aviator into the
Yukon Transportation Museum’s Hall of Fame.
Moe married wife Cora in 1953 and the couple had two children, George and David.
In 1969, Moe became a partner in the Ford dealership when Rolf Hougen purchased the company from the Northern Commercial Co. He was already managing the car business, then located on Main Street, which was relocated to its current location on Fourth Avenue.
Moe gave much to the Yukon as a musician, and as a member of the Yukon Order of Pioneers. He is also fondly remembered for driving his Model "T" Ford in the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous parade.
He was the man with a mandolin and he liked to share the music. In 1975, he began visiting Macaulay Lodge to play for senior residents. Eventually, other musicians joined the group and their performances became a meaningful part of activities at the lodge. Recently, a group of musicians celebrated the 32nd anniversary of the weekly performances begun by Moe Grant.
In 2002, Moe was honoured with the Commissioner’s Award "for his tireless dedication to bringing music into the lives of Yukon ’s senior citizens."
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin