Montana Outdoors

June 7, 2008

Prairie smoke

Although the rather strange appearing flowers of this member of the rose family are inconspicuous, I personally don’t find them unpleasant. The seeds however, with their long feathery tails which act like sails to help scatter them on the wind are very different and interesting, and their soft, filament appearance is quite pleasing to my eye.

Prairie smoke. AKA Three-flowered Avens, Old-man’s Whiskers,
Geum triflorum

Prairie smoke

Prairie smoke

 Prairie smoke

Prairie smoke seeds

Prairie smoke seeds

As I look at it I wonder, as I so often do, what it is for and what it is doing here and why, since we don’t know those things, are we so willing to destroy its habitat.


  1. The last two are out of this world. It is here, like each and everyone of us are, in order to experience its magnificence in the realm of the relative – to experientially know its magnificence in the presence of everything not “as beautiful” as it is!


    Comment by Sumedh — June 8, 2008 @ 12:45 am

  2. I’ve always liked the name of this flower!



    Comment by knightofswords — June 8, 2008 @ 7:14 am

  3. Your closing comment is so true! As a person retired from a career with The Nature Conservancy I join you in asking that question. Once again,.. magical photography!


    Comment by Cedar — June 8, 2008 @ 8:38 am

  4. Humans tend to believe that because we are more intelligent or more powerful than other organisms that we can just destroy them for no good reason. One day, we will find out, but probably the hard way.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — June 8, 2008 @ 9:09 am

  5. Sumedh,

    I would not expect those seeds from those flowers, but that’s the strategy of the plant I guess. You may be right in that it’s experiencing its magnificence.


    Comment by montucky — June 8, 2008 @ 10:38 am

  6. Malcolm,

    I really like that name too. Haven’t a clue though how it became tied to this plant.


    Comment by montucky — June 8, 2008 @ 10:39 am

  7. Cedar,

    I wish more folks would contemplate that question too. It might be a good start in bringing the opposite issues of exploitation and conservation into a better focus, wouldn’t it?

    What an rewarding career it must have been with that organization!


    Comment by montucky — June 8, 2008 @ 10:43 am

  8. Scienceguy,

    That’s a serious concern! I think a lot of the old American Indian ideal of being stewards of the earth for the benefit of the seventh generation. As I look over the changes just within my own lifetime (since the ’40’s) I think there’s a serious question whether our species will survive that long.


    Comment by montucky — June 8, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  9. All of these are gorgeous, but the last two caught my breath.

    I love the names, especially Prairie Smoke (which would also be a great name for a horse, I think).


    Comment by Jennifer H — June 8, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  10. Just beautiful! And powerful food for thought as well.


    Comment by Sara — June 8, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  11. oohh, I agree w/ cedar, magical pictures! That next to last one has some real whimsy about it!!


    Comment by silken — June 8, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

  12. Another pretty little thing, Sara, that is usually overlooked. The Indians knew about it though and used its roots to make tea.

    Incidentally, these are growing just 15 miles from where you turned off Highway 200 on 135, the cutoff road to I90. I enjoyed your photos of your Montana trip very much. You covered a lot of ground in a short time!


    Comment by montucky — June 8, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  13. Silken,

    It sure chose a visually pleasant way to scatter its seeds, didn’t it!


    Comment by montucky — June 8, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

  14. Jennifer,

    I agree, that would be a terrific name for a horse! I don’t have a clue where the name came from but I love it!

    This was actually the first time I’ve seen these in seed and was really struck by the sight of them. I’ve found that amazing things abound in the natural world.


    Comment by montucky — June 8, 2008 @ 6:12 pm

  15. Love the pink stuff! The gossamer nature of the seeds only adds to the charm. Quite divine!


    Comment by Tabbie — June 9, 2008 @ 5:14 am

  16. I like it too, Tabbie. Many plants use a wind-floating strategy to distribute seeds, but they are usually drab straw-colored. This one chose to use color and it’s very pleasant!


    Comment by montucky — June 9, 2008 @ 8:37 am

  17. They are beautiful Terry, well done !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — June 9, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

  18. Thanks Bernie! It’s the only flower I know that’s prettier when it goes to seed!


    Comment by montucky — June 9, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

  19. Beautifully photographed indeed! Love the name “Old man’s whiskers.” 🙂


    Comment by Adam R. Paul — June 10, 2008 @ 8:36 am

  20. That name makes me think of the cactus in the Arizona desert that has a white hair-like covering, “the old man of the desert”.


    Comment by montucky — June 10, 2008 @ 8:42 am

  21. Hello from the other side of the state! I have a little pressed flower business, and prairie smoke is one of my favorite things to press and frame. They grow in abundance in our pastures. The older generation here call them “Grandpa’s whiskers.” I am glad to learn they are a member of the rose family.


    Comment by amy — June 28, 2008 @ 6:15 am

  22. Thanks for visiting, Amy! I haven’t seen them in any abundance around here, but I guess if you think about it, their name does imply they might be more prevalent east of the Divide.


    Comment by montucky — June 28, 2008 @ 8:19 am

  23. Now that you’ve looked at the picture at

    you can see why when I first saw pictures of prairie smoke in its plumy stage I figured it must be some sort of Clematis.


    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — July 23, 2011 @ 8:35 am

    • We have two types of wild clematis here,blue and white, and they have somewhat similar seed heads too.


      Comment by Montucky — July 23, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

      • I just searched your site for “clematis” and found the pictures you posted on August 31, 2008. I see what you mean about your species and the one in Austin having similar seed heads.


        Comment by Steve Schwartzman — July 23, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

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