The reddish stems of this herbaceous perennial are usually simple, erect, smooth, 0.5–2.5 m high with scattered alternate leaves. The leaves are entire, lanceolate, and pinnately veined. The radially symmetrical flowers have four magenta to pink petals, 2 to 3 cm in diameter. The styles have four stigmas, which occur in symmetrical terminal racemes. The reddish-brown linear seed capsule splits from the apex. It bears many minute brown seeds, about 300 to 400 per capsule and 80,000 per plant. The seeds have silky hairs to aid wind dispersal and are very easily spread by the wind, often becoming a weed and a dominant species on disturbed ground. Once established, the plants also spread extensively by underground roots, an individual plant eventually forming a large patch. The leaves of fireweed are unique in that the leaf veins are circular and do not terminate on the edges of the leaf, but form circular loops and join together inside the outer leaf margins. This feature makes the plants very easy to identify in all stages of growth. When fireweed first emerges in early spring, it can closely resemble several highly toxic members of the lily family, however, it is easily identified by its unique leaf vein structure.
For the developers at New York start-up Networked Organisms, smartphones are the butterfly nets of the 21st Century. Their tool, Project Noah, lets people upload photos of plants and wildlife around them, creating a map of the natural world and contributing to scientific research in the process.
Bespectacled scientists of yore would carry around hefty field guides, made up of hundreds of pages of text and photos. But these days, smartphone owners have a lighter option: an app called Project Noah, which aims to help people identify plants and animals as well as collect data from "citizen scientists" about where certain species are located.
Project Noah enables us to be part of a more focused online community where we can learn more about wildlife around us and contribute to scientific research. It pulls participants into deeper, more meaningful engagement by enabling people to go on “missions” to collectively map changes based on sightings.
A modern invention that may also hold the key to saving species in the future. Project Noah is a global study that encourages nature lovers to document the wildlife they encounter, using a purpose built phone app and web community. In addition to the virtual "collection" of species, Project Noah encourages citizen science by linking up with existing surveys including the International Spider Survey and the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.