Geum urbanum - Wood Avens

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Rosales - Family: Rosaceae

Geum urbanum, Wood Avens, closeup of flowers

A perennial wildflower, Geum urbanum is too straggly to draw attention to itself, but seen at close quarters the flowers and later the burr-like seedheads are very attractive. Plants are upright and wiry with slightly branching stems that are reddish on one side.

The five-petalled yellow flowers of Wood Avens are 1 to 1.5cm in diameter and occasionally they are tinged with scarlet, but they are invariably well separated rather than growing in clusters.

Geum urbanum, Wood Avens - a small plant

Seeds of Wood Avens (below) are burr-like and are distributed after being caught in the coats of rabbits and other furry animals.

seed pod of Wood Avens

Distribution

This plant is common throughout Britain (apart from northern Scotland, where it is scarce) and Ireland, as it is also throughout much of mainland Europe and northern Asia. We saw many of these plants in the Triglav National Park in Slovenia during visits in June 2011 and June 2014.

Habitat and Blooming Times

Wood Avens favours shady placesbeside tree-lined country lanes, on the edges of woodland, and in drier land near the margins of well-shaded ponds and lakes. Its close relative is mainly a waterside plant, and where Wood Avens and Water Avens grow in close proximity they tend to hybridise.

Etymology

Geum, the genus name, comes from the Greek word geno, which means to give off a pleasant fragrance. When crushed, the roots of Geum plants smell like cloves.

The specific epithet urbanum means 'of a city' (urban!), and this is a very common 'weed' of cities, towns and villages.

Geum urbanum is also referred to as Herb Bennet, a corruption of the Latin Herba Benedicta, meaning 'the blessed herb'; the aromatic roots of this plant, worn as an amulet, was thought to have the ability to ward off evil spirits and other dire threats.

The plants shown on this page were photographed in West Wales in June.


Volume 1

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