Mark has been the Director of Horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, WI for the last 14 years. Along with dedicated staff and volunteers, Mark coordinates the development and improvement of this 20-acre botanical showcase. Mark’s background is in landscape architecture and urban forestry although his true passion is obtaining, growing, observing and photographing all manner of plants.


Consider Prairie Smoke
by Mark Dwyer - posted 01/19/15


Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) is a native perennial that is one of my favorites for interest in the summer months.  Reaching only 15" in height, this is a nice plant in the front of the border or in any bright sunny location.  Preferring dry, well-drained soils in full sun, this perennial features nodding, reddish-pink blooms in late spring (see further below) which transform to these wispy, elongated seed heads.  With a breeze, they look amazing and ultimately, these feathery "seed tails" help with seed dispersal with late season seeds "sailing" to new destinations.  This wispy look has also led to the other common names of this perennial such as torch flower, lion's beard and old man's whiskers.  Some Native Americans used the boiled roots of this plant to create a tea for wound treatments, sore throats and as a treatment for tuberculosis.  We have some nice specimens in our alpine garden although many of these photos are from elsewhere.  Note further below the transition from the late spring flower to the wispy appearance (a "months-long" display) and ultimately some fall color as well.  This is a tough, durable and long-lived, hardy plant once established.





Spring flowers both directly above and below




a big patch of prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) at the Chicago Botanic Garden




 late fall color of prairie smoke (Geum triflorum)



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