Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Does Anyone Smell Smoke?

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum), that is. I'd say that smelling Prairie Smoke would be much more pleasant than smelling Old Man's Whiskers, the common name given for this plant in the PLANTS Database. Just my personal preference.
Tony and I spent a good part of the day botanizing grassed swales in northwest Indiana (not too exciting), so I decided to post a few photos of this gorgeous Rosaceous plant, which is growing in my home landscaping. Geum triflorum isn't found naturally in Indiana, but it is known from prairies in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan (threatened), as well from much of Canada and the western United States. The only place I have ever seen this plant growing naturally was on a remnant hill prairie in Wisconsin. I'm typically a purist when it comes to native landscaping, but this is just a cool plant.
As you can see in the close-up, the "smoke" or "old man's whiskers" are actually mature, plumose styles visible when the plant is in fruit. (As a side note, nature is full of plumose, or feathery, structures... to see another click here.) These feathery styles are important for seed dispersal in this species. The nodding flowers aren't very showy, as they consist of 3/4" pinkish sepals surrounding white or light pink petals that never seem fully open.
According to Illinois Wildflowers by Don Kurz, Geum triflorum has been used in the past to treat sore or inflamed eyes, canker sores, sore throats, and flesh wounds; it was also smoked to "clear the head."

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