Geum sp. (Prairie Smoke and Water Avens)
Prairie Smoke

Zone: 3 to 7

Soil: sand to loam with some clay

Light: Full sun to part sun

Bloom colour: Pink

Bloom period: May

Height: Up to 1 foot

Moisture: Usually dry to medium

Attracts: Bumblebees


Prairie smoke is native to Ontario and much of the western half of the continent. This plant is a source of nectar for queen bumblebees and small bees. The flowerheads are upside down which restricts the pollination to bees. The closed flowerheads make the nectaries difficult to access for many bees. Bumblebees can open up the flowers by forcing their way in while several small bees can access the nectar through the small hole left by the purple sepals and white petals.


To attract bees and for best visual effect, this plant should be planted en masse at the front of a border. It will provide a season of interest before your summer plants are fully grown and in flower. The closed flowers, although covered with purple sepals, will not attract much attention but the seedheads are quite striking and extend the season of interest for this plant. They are plumed with each individual strand attached to a seed to aid in its dispersal. The plant may also spread slowly through its rhizomes. This plant combines well with heartleaf alexanders which flowers a bit later while the prairie smoke are showing off their seedheads.


For wetter soils, one can plant water avens (Geum rivale). Their flowerheads are more open than those of prairie smoke. While the flowerheads of water avens are prettier than those of prairie smoke, the seedheads of the latter plant somewhat more striking with their longer styles. Water avens can be grown in exactly the same conditions as blue flag iris.

Prairie smoke
Prairie smoke
Closed flowerheads of prairie smoke
Geum seedhead
Prairie smoke - seed heads
Open flowerhead of Geum rivale
Open flowerhead of Geum rivale  
Clump forming Prairie Smoke
Clump forming prairie smoke