Wood Avens - Geum urbanum
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
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!