Wood Avens - Geum urbanum

Main features

  • Basal rosette of strawberry-like leaves

  • Yellow flowers in summertime with similar shape to strawberry flowers

  • Crushed roots smell like a clove-cinnamon mixture

  • Common in gardens and woodland

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Wood Avens - Geum urbanum

Edible plant - novice

Other common names Clove Root, Bennet's Root, Old Man's Whiskers, Colewort, Herb Bennet, and St Benedict’s Herb

 

Scientific name meaning Geum has its origins in the Greek word Geno, which means “pleasant fragrance”. The species name Urbanum means “of the city”, as it is a very common urban "weed"

Season Can be found all year, and flowers during the summer months

Habitat - where will I find it? It prefers well-drained, but moist soil and can be found in woodland and gardens. It will grow in either full light or semi-shade

Description - what does it look like? Wood Avens has Strawberry-like leaves that grow in a basal rosette. In summertime, it produces a tall flower stalk reaching up to 50cm. The five-petalled flowers are similar in appearance to those of the strawberry, but are yellow in colour. 

The roots, when crushed, smell like a combination of cloves and cinnamon

Possible lookalikes Both Water Avens (Geum rivale) and wild strawberries (Fragaria) look similar to Wood Avens. However, the clove-like scent of the root is not present in these two lookalikes

Use as a food The young leaves and the root can be cooked and eaten, while the roots can be used as a flavouring in drinks, syrups, preserves and stews. The best time to harvest Wood Avens for eating is believed to be springtime

Use in herbal medicine Wood Avens contains Genine, Geoside and Eugenol, the latter of which is also found in cloves. With that in mind, it is unsurprising it has been used, like cloves, to treat oral pain, such as toothache. 

In addition, it has been used as an antiseptic, styptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, digestive aid, and to treat dog bites, liver disease, chest infections, mouth ulcers, toothache, halitosis, heart disease and all manner of digestive problem

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Hazards Excessive consumption can cause intestinal problems 

Other uses Has been used to repel moths from clothes, and to ward off evil spirits, snakes and rabid dogs

Importance to other species As well as providing a food source for pollinators, the caterpillar of the Grizzled Skipper butterfly feeds on Wood Avens

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!