Prairie smoke received one of its common names, Prairie smoke, due to the thought that when setting seed en mass, large stands of the plant look like low hanging smoke, or that smoke is coming out of individual plants. Other common names, Old man’s whiskers or Old man’s beard reference the thought that the wispy, feathery, plume-like seed heads look or feel like the beard of an old man. It is also sometimes called Three flowered avens because the nodding, reddish pink/maroon/purple flowers on each stem usually occur in threes, but actually they can have up to nine flowers per stem. Prairie smoke is a perennial wildflower with deeply dissected, fern-like leaves that create a mound of green foliage under 2′ tall. It blooms in spring to early summer, depending on elevation, and is native to southern Canada and northern regions in the United States. In the wild it inhabits prairies, grasslands, sagebrush steppe, yellow pine forest, openings in mixed conifer, red fir forest and subalpine forests, as well as juniper woodland. Prairie smoke is uncommon in the Klamath-Siskiyou region, but where populations exist it is usually found in upland prairies and open meadows. It is common in the Sierras and Cascades to the east. It is adaptable to a wide range of soils types, but prefers to grow in dry to seasonally moist areas with well-drained loamy or gravelly soil in full to part sun. Prairie smoke is in the rose (Roseaceae) plant family. Bumble bees are a primary pollinator of Prairie smoke flowers.
“Employing the same buzz-pollination that makes the bees such valuable pollinators of crops such as tomatoes and blueberries – a bumble bee will grasp the globe-shaped flower and beat her wings to shake the pollen onto her abdomen for collection. She’ll rake the pollen, combine it with nectar, and pack it into her corbicula (pollen basket). Some pollen will remain and will be transferred to the next flower.
Nectar thieves – including wasps, beetles, and bees – cut to the chase by chewing small openings at the top of the flower to access nectar. Ants, aided and abetted by these blossom bandits, use these openings to access nectar as well.”
Geum triflorum seed packets contain approximately 150 seeds.
Seed Germination Instructions
30-60 days cold-moist stratification. Sow outside in fall to late winter.