Prairie smoke is an herbaceous perennial in the family Rosaceae native to North America. This unique wild flower gets its’ name from its feathery gray tails which resemble a plume or a feather duster. This characteristic has given this plant many nick-names such as: torch flower, long-plumed purple avens, prairie smoke, lion’s beard and old man’s whiskers. It is listed as a threatened species by the Department of Environmental Conservation, because of this; the SLELO PRISM and The Nature Conservancy are trying to protect prairie smoke on several of the alvar communities within the SLELO region (St. Lawrence, Lewis, Jefferson, Oneida and Oswego Counties).
Prairie smoke grows best in dry, well drained soils in full sunlight; it tolerates light shade on hot summer days. It can be locally found at one of the SLELO PRISM Priority Conservation Areas at the Chaumont Barrens Preserve, an alvar habitat, located in Chaumont NY. It is found naturally in North Western California throughout Canada and portions of the US.
Flowers: are pink to reddish purple in color and grow in groups of three on long stalks. Each bloom is ¾-1 inch long with 5 white to pale pink petals hidden under red sepals. Sepals and floral bracts are hairy on the outer surface. Blooms appear in early spring (Middle to end of May for Northern New York area).
Leaves/Stem: Basal leaves are 4-8 inches long, hairy and divided into 7 or more primary, wedge shaped leaflets with coarse notches at the tips. Stems turn a reddish brown and are covered in fine hairs.
Fruit: Fruit is a dry seed with a 2-inch long feathery plume (distinctive feature that gives the flower its name) the plumes resemble smoke blowing in the wind.
Prairie smoke has been used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes to treat wounds and sore throats.
Title picture: Kirt Prairie, (cod.edu). Habitat/Distribution map photo: USDA Plant Database. Flower photo: Janet Allen, (ourhabitatgarden.org). Leaf/Stem photo: Slichter, ( halleyhosting.com). Fruit photo: G.D Bebeau, (friendsofthewildflowergarden.org).
“Geum Triflorum (Prairie Smoke): Minnesota Wildflowers.” Geum Triflorum (Prairie Smoke): Minnesota Wildflowers. Minnesota Wildflowers: A Guide to the Flora of Minnesota, n.d. Web. 27 July 2015. <https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/prairie-smoke>.
“Geum Triflorum – Plant Finder.” Geum Triflorum – Plant Finder. Missouri Botanical Garden, n.d. Web. 27 July 2015. <http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=h920>.