Prairie Smoke – Geum triflorum
One of the first wildflowers to bloom in the Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden is a low-growing plant in the rose family. Patches of fern-like leaves green up quickly in the spring, followed by a series of upright, mostly leafless stems that reach anywhere from a few inches to over a foot tall. Three bell-shaped flowers are borne atop each stem, which bend at the top to face the flowers downward.
Pink to red sepals and small, pointed bracts encase each of the flowers. The petals, which are white or light pink, are barely visible. After the flowers are pollinated, they turn to face upwards. The styles of the flowers persist and grow up to two inches long. They also become hairy, which gives the seed head a feathery appearance and explains one of the plant’s common names, old man’s whiskers.
Geum triflorum is widespread throughout western North America and occurs in dry to moist open areas in montane and subalpine regions. Where it is abundant, the collective seed heads create the appearance of a low-lying haze, hence its other common name, prairie smoke.
See prairie smoke blooming now in the Prairie Zone of Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden.
Written by IBG collections curator, Daniel Murphy