Great willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum)

Great willowherb flower and sead head
Loading more images and videos...

Great willowherb fact file

Great willowherb description

GenusEpilobium (1)

Great willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum) is a tall, common herb. It has a densely hairy stem (2) bearing long, narrow leaves that taper to a point and are similar in appearance to those of willows, hence the name ‘willowherb’ (3). The leaves and stems are very woolly, referred to by the specific Latin name ‘hirsutum', which means hairy. The flowers have a rosy flush and the stigmas are creamy white. This colouration is thought to have led to the alternative name of ‘codlins-and-cream’; codlins were cooking apples, and were often boiled in milk and eaten with cream (3). The seeds are contained within a downy, narrow seed capsule which measures 5-8 cm in length (2).

Also known as
codlins-and-cream, great hairy willowherb.
Epilobium tomentosum.
Épilobe Hérissé.
Leaf size: 6 – 12 x 1.5 – 2.5 cm (2)
Flower diameter: 15 – 23 mm (2)
Stem height: 80 – 150 cm

Great willowherb biology

Great willowherb is a perennial herb that spreads by seed or by means of branching white subterranean rhizomes (4) that are produced during summer (2) and can result in large, dense clumps of this plant (4). The flowers are visited by hoverflies and bees (2).


Great willowherb range

This plant is common throughout most of Britain, with the exception of the far north-west (2). The species has increased in numbers in Wales, south west Scotland and north England (4). Great willowherb is found in mainland Europe as far north as southern Sweden. It also occurs in temperate parts of Asia, and north, east and south Africa. It has been introduced to North America (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Great willowherb habitat

Although this species can withstand dry habitats, it is typically found in damp, open habitats such as pond or stream banks, marshes, ditches, damp woodlands and waste ground (4).


Great willowherb status

The great willowherb is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Great willowherb threats

This species is not currently considered to be threatened (1).


Great willowherb conservation

Conservation action is not required for this very common species (1).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

For more on British native plants and for details of how to get involved in plant conservation visit the website of Plantlife, the wild plant charity:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
Rhizomes are thickened, branching, creeping storage stems. Although most rhizomes grow laterally just along or slightly below the soil's surface, some grow several inches deep. Roots grow from the underside of the rhizome, and during the growing season new growth sprouts from buds along the top. A familiar rhizome is the ginger used in cooking.
The receptive part of the female reproductive organ of a flower. Pollen germinates on the stigma. (See for a fact sheet on flower structure).


  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2013)
  2. Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and Moore, D.M. (1987) Flora of the British Isles. Third Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. Grigson, G. (1996) The Englishman’s Flora. Helicon Publishing, Ltd., Oxford.
  4. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. and Dines, T.D. (2002) New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Image credit

Great willowherb flower and sead head  
Great willowherb flower and sead head

© Gordon Maclean /

Getty Images
101 Bayham Street
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 800 376 7981


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Great willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top