Get to Know Our Natives: Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)
Geum triflorum is a petite native that is the earliest perennial to bloom in our display gardens. Its nodding teardrop shaped raspberry colored flowers have a subtle beauty that would probably be overlooked in the summer garden but is much appreciated in the chilly early days of spring. Flowers are held on slender 6”-10” stems over low growing, fern-like, slightly pubescent foliage. Flowers are borne in groups of three, as suggested by the species name (“tri” = “three”, “florum” = “flowers”).
Garden Worthy Prairie Native:
Geum triflorum’s main attraction is the showy upright pink feathery seedheads that follow the flowers. These distinctive plume-like seedheads have earned the plant the common name of Old Man’s Beard. Another common name, Prairie Smoke, comes from the fact that, en-masse, these wispy seedheads give the impression of hazy smoke hovering over the ground. When they first appear, the plumes are a lovely raspberry-pink color that ages over time to a creamy-bronze. They remain on the plant for many weeks, extending the show into summer.
Prairie Smoke thrives in full sun and well drained soil. It spreads slowly by rhizomes to form small colonies. Due to its short stature and early bloom time it is best situated at the front of the border, along walkways, or even in raised beds where its understated loveliness can be best viewed and appreciated.
Rare in the Wild
Native to dry prairies and dry open woodlands of southern and central Wisconsin, this plant is becoming rare in the wild due to habitat loss.
Cold & Drought Tolerant and Deer Resistant
Prairie Smoke is hardy to zone 3, drought resistant and unpalatable to deer so is easy to accommodate in a garden setting.
Try pairing it with Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) whose delicate airy summer seedheads will continue the soft textural effect through the season.