FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Geum triflorum forms low leafy rosettes of evergreen fern-like foliage. In spring, flower stalks rise to about 1’ and are topped by umbels with 3 nodding pinkish-red florets. Clusters of achenes with showy pink feathery tails follow in summer. Plants gradually spread by rhizomes to form a groundcover in sunny mesic to dry sandy or gravelly sites.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Geum triflorum occurs from Ontario to New York and south to Illinois, South Dakota and New Mexico. The range extends west to the Yukon Territories and south to California.
This species is most often found in undisturbed high quality prairies without tall thick vegetation. Plants are indigenous to dry prairies (including gravelly prairies, sand prairies and hill prairies), dry open woods and rocky montane meadows. Around the Great Lakes, Geum triflorum occurs in alvars which are sparse grassland habitats dominated by exposed limestone bedrock or “pavement”.
Prairie Smoke is hardy from USDA Zones 3-7.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Geum triflorum is a clumping perennial wildflower.
Foliage is 4-8” long, blue-green, pubescent and fern-like. Leaves are odd-pinnately compound with 7-13 irregularly toothed leaflets.
In spring, stalks rise bearing inch long bell shaped florets in groups of three. Each bud-like floret has 5 long pinkish sepals and 5 shorter white to pink petals. Blooming begins in early spring and lasts for 1-2 months.
After pollination, the florets turn upward and form dense clusters of achenes with showy 2” feathery pink styles. The dramatic fruit display is reminiscent of smoke billowing in the wind.
The showy achenes persist and appear as a pinkish haze for most of the summer before being dispersed by wind or animals.
In autumn foliage sometimes assumes a red or purplish tint. Leaves are generally evergreen and are often burgundy tinged in winter.
Plants attain 6-18” height with 6-12” spread and form small colonies from underground rhizomes.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Geum triflorum prospers in sunny well drained sites in climates with cool summers.
Plants tolerate light shade, drought, thin soils over limestone, barren rocky, sandy or gravelly soil, loamy or clay soil and alkaline pH.
Geum triflorum usually declines if sited in soils that are soggy in winter or if shaded by taller more aggressive plants.
This species tolerates occasional controlled burns but spring fires should be avoided. Plants are resistant to pests and are unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.
LANDSCAPE USES: Geum triflorum is a useful Accent, Mass or Groundcover for Prairie Gardens or Rock Gardens. Plants provide showy Summer Fruit, Fall Color and Winter Interest and are appropriate for Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Meadow Gardens, Perennial Borders, Roadsides and Restoration Projects.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Geum triflorum with low growing grasses and sedges like Bouteloua curtipendula, Carex pensylvanica, Danthonia spicata or Schizachyrium scoparium. Suitable flowering companions could include Blephilia ciliata, Coreopsis lanceolata or Liatris aspera.
Phlox pilosa is a low growing prairie species with similar cultural needs. This species offers masses of pink spring and summer flowers and could be used as a companion or substitution for Geum triflorum.
TRIVIA: The bud-like florets remain mostly closed and are pollinated by bumblebees which are strong enough to force their way in to sip the nectar.
Geum triflorum is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae).