Geum rivale, the Water avens is a native perennial of slow-draining or wet soils. Habitats include stream sides, pond edges, damp deciduous woodland and meadows. Up close the flower can be surprisingly vibrant but its wispy growth habit and lush environment keeps it fairly cryptic until it's right at your knees.
It is a medium height downy perennial with nodding bell shaped flowers each flower has five pale purple-pink rounded petals and dark purple ovate sepals with numerous stamens and yellow anthers. The large basal leaves are divided into three, lobed leaflets and occurring primarily along the lower half of each hairy stem. The leaves along the flowering stem are also divided but much smaller.
The plants flower prolifically from April until September and are usually at their best in June. The flowers are held on 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) drooping stems which turn erect after pollination, are followed by feathery seed heads.
Geum rivale is useful as a low ground cover perennial with a long flowering period, it is particularly useful in damp soils and makes a good show besides streams and ponds. Hardy to minus 40°C (-40°F), the plants prefer partial to full sun, wet to moist conditions, and cool to mild summer temperatures. Various types of soil are tolerated including mildly acidic to calcareous conditions.
It produces both nectar and pollen and is an excellent plant for attracting bees, hoverflies, other pollinators and amphibians to the garden. The bees are attracted to the pollen while frogs and newts hide in the moist shade under the dense foliage particularly if planted in groups.
Sowing: Sow in late summer/autumn or late winter/late spring
Sow at 18 to 22°C (65 to 70°F) in a well drained compost mix. Cover with vermiculite. Water from the base of the tray, keeping the compost moist but not wet at all times. Germination should occur in 21 to 28 days but is occasionally a little longer.
Prick out each seedling once it has its first set of true leaves, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays containing a peaty soil. Grow on under glass. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out in spring. Plant 40cm (15in) apart.
Most Geums first flush of flower is late spring to early summer. Keep well watered and deadhead by removing the spent flower stems at their base. This encourages more flower production.
Geums will remain evergreen through winter but the old leaves become brown by the end of winter and make the plants look scruffy. You can give the plants a good haircut in late winter or pull off old leaves.
In very dry conditions some Geums may be slightly affected by powdery mildew. If it bothers you cut off all the mature leaves keeping the small, new ones starting to grow from the base.
Lift and divide plants in spring or autumn as this keeps them vigorous. Break the plants into separate plants each with roots and plant out straight away, discarding old weak parts.
Congested colonies can be lifted and divided every three years to maintain flower vigour, otherwise the middle becomes exposed and the plant declines and dies out. If divided regularly they perform for years.
The easiest time to divide is in early autumn. Break off pieces and replant or pot up, but do not let divisions dry out. Division can also be done in spring.
Ponds, streams and damp areas. Wildlife
There are about fifty species in the genus Geum, and they are all herbaceous perennials. They places of origin are widely scattered: in Europe, the Americas, New Zealand, Asia, and Africa. The plants inhabit a wide range of places such as dry open fields, bog and alpine regions.
Geum rivale has a circumboreal distribution, occurring chiefly throughout the northern portion of the Northern Hemisphere. It flourishes freely in the northern parts of Europe, in North America, Canada and Siberia. It is locally frequent in Northern Ireland and in Britain is more common in the northern counties and in Scotland than in the southern counties.
A close relative of Geum urbanum, the Wood Avens, Geum rivale, the Water Avens occurs on poorly drained neutral and acidic soils, in boggy, shady areas, stream and pond edges and damp deciduous woodlands. It is usually lowland, but can also be found in mountainous areas.
It is a flowering plant of the family Rosaceae.
The genus name geum comes from the Greek geuo and means ‘to give flavour or relish’. Since Roman times the plant has been used for flavouring food and drink.
The species name rivale is derived from the Latin
rivulus meaning a rivulet or small brook, in reference to where it is commonly found.
It is commonly known as Water Avens, Nodding Avens, Drooping Avens and Water Flower.
The name Avens derives from Middle English avence, from Old French, from Medieval Latin avencia. The meaning of which is unclear but it is thought to refer to Geum urbanum as 'a kind of clover'.
In North America it is known as Purple Avens, Cure All and Water Flower. It is called Indian Chocolate and Indian Chocolate Root, the purplish root is used in making a beverage used as a substitute for cocoa.
The National Collection:
Sue Martin holds the National Collection of Geum, of which there are over a hundred different cultivars, hybrids, varieties and species. The garden, at Cranbook in Kent is open on selective days in May.
If you would like to visit please telephone first - 0044 (0)1580 852425.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 100mg Average Seed Count 100 Seeds Family Rosaceae Genus Geum Species rivale Cultivar Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Common Name Water Avens Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Nodding purple-pink flowers Natural Flower Time May to September Height 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) Spread 30 to 60cm (12 to 24in) Position Full sun to partial shade Soil Moist soil