The great hairy willow-herb is native to Europe, unlike the evening primrose which originated in North America. In fact, the great hairy willow-herb was eventually exported to the USA. It has many strange local names, such as codlins-and-cream, apple-pie and cherry-pie. It grows throughout the Netherlands along banks, in ditches and reed marshes. Great hairy willow-herb strongly resembles fireweed, however it grows on wetter soils, its leaves are covered entirely with hair and the blossoms stand further apart. Great hairy willow-herb is an important food plant for the elephant hawk-moth.