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A Gold Star Herb with an Aromatic Root

Updated on October 4, 2015

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman

The wood Aven is known by several other names which include colewort, , clove root, herb bennet, city avens, goldy star and clove root.

This plant which delights to grow in shady  open woods is a member of the rose family and is closely related to the Potentilla genus, which includes some well known garden plants. 


Illustartion of the wood aven .courtesy of Kurt Steuber
Illustartion of the wood aven .courtesy of Kurt Steuber

Basic Biology of the Wood Aven.

The root of this species is a rhizome one to two inches long which ends abruptly, hard and rough with fibrous roots coming off the rhizome. These rhizomes are aromatic and have an odour reminiscent of cloves. They were once places in wardrobes and drawers to keep moths away from clothes. The root was much used for medicinal preparations {see below}.

The stems are thin and almost upright in habit. They are slightly branched and attain the height of 1-2 feet.{30-60cm} There is often a reddish brown tinge on one side or the other of the stem.

The leaves of this plant vary a lot depending on their situation on the stem. The lower stems are borne on long channeled stalks. They are similar in character to those of the silverweed a related species within this family, being interrupted pinnate {divided into leaflets,}  i.e., larger side leaflets being divided along the stem by smaller ones. The large terminal leaflet is much larger and wedge shaped. The upper leaves on the stems are made up of three narrow leaflets; those on the lower part of the stem have three leaflets round and full. They are arranged alternately along the stem. each having two stipules {leaf-like members that in many species of plant occur at the junction where the leaf meets the stem}, those of the avens are very large about one inch broad and long, coarsely toothed and lobed. All the leaves are of a deep green colour, more or less covered by spreading hairs and their margins are toothed.

Flowers and seeds---The blooms of this plant are small in relation to the size of the plant. They are borne on solitary terminal stalks. The petals are yellow and five in number. the petals spread and roundish with the slightly longer sepals linear and protruding just beyond them. The flowers are often unnoticed by people walking by, being so small, but many people will recognise the tight , slightly prickly fruit heads that stick to clothing and the fur of passing animals. The fruits are the main way the plant relies on for its distribution.

Young foliage

young growth of the wood aven Photograph by D.A.L.
young growth of the wood aven Photograph by D.A.L.

Geum in the Garden

Many varieties of the Geum genus have been developed for the garden. Like those pictured below they have been bred to have showy coloured flowers are larger lobed foliage. They are perennial by nature and have long been grown in cottage gardens. The rhizome which is much longer than its wild cousin up to ten inches long and quite thick. These are easily divided during spring to increase stock. The rhizomes are just below the surface and sometimes they are exposed by rain.

The long flowering period also help to make them a popular choice for cottage gardens. The cultivated varieties will grow in full sun another difference fro their wild cousins that like to be in light shade.

Cultivated Geum

Flowers of the cultivated species of Geum enhance gardens borders. Photograph by D.A.L.
Flowers of the cultivated species of Geum enhance gardens borders. Photograph by D.A.L.

the lobed foliage of the cultivated Geum

Note how large the lobes of the foliage are compared with their wild counterparts. Photograph by D.A.L.
Note how large the lobes of the foliage are compared with their wild counterparts. Photograph by D.A.L.

Country Titles for the Wood Aven.

 As in common with many species of wild flora this species as acquired many country titles. herb Bennet which is a corruption of blessed herb was given to the plant because of its supposed ability to ward off evil spirits and even the Devil himself. City avens was a popular title for the plant in  many regions this alludes to the fact that it is often found in urban settings. The species name of urbanicum also alludes to this fact.

Goldy Star of the earth alludes to its yellow star -like flowers that brighten up the shady habitats. the genus name of Geum derives from the Greek geno, meaning to yield an agreeable fragrance which alludes to the root.

Medicinal and Culinary Uses of Wood Aven

The active ingredients of the wood aven include essential oils, tannins and bitters.

The plant is astringent, styptic, febrifuge, antiseptic, tonic and aromatic. In archaic times the roots were utilised to flavour ale {beer} it also preserves the beer from turning sour.

A cordial against the symptoms of the plague was made by boiling the roots in wine. On account of its stomachic properties the root was regularly chewed to stop the smell of bad breath. 

The various preparations procured from the root have been used to treat fevers, colds, dysentery, sore throats,catarrh, gastric irritation and head aches. Its astringent properties make it beneficial in the treatment of diarrhoea in the form of an infusion of the root. This infusion was also employed as a lotion to alleviate the symptoms of many skin infections.

Modern day uses- preparations from the root source is still used against diarrhoea. An infusion of the root is used for a gargle for sore throats. It is still used in some parts of the country to flavour certain local beers. The leaves may be added to salads and soups.

Top Wood Aven. Below A Hybrid species

The tiny yellow flower of the wood aven. Photograph courtesy of Bogdan
The tiny yellow flower of the wood aven. Photograph courtesy of Bogdan
A hybrid between the wood aven and the water aven. Photograph courtesy of Roger Griffif.
A hybrid between the wood aven and the water aven. Photograph courtesy of Roger Griffif.

The only other species of aven growing in England is the water aven. Where the two grow in close proximity hybrids occur between the two. {see final photograph below.}


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Pollyannalana, thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. There is indeed so much to be taught bout herbs and their uses. Joining a wild flower walk led by an expert is a great way to recognise species and to learn how beneficial, or not, they are.

    • Pollyannalana profile image


      8 years ago from US

      Great info, I am getting all these goodies on a poster one day, what and benefits and dangers if any. I am so into these things but sometimes there are things such as celery seed we have to not use if on a diuretic and the disappearances of Goldenseal besides some dangers there too. It's just too hard to remember it all, what do I use for that? J/K....Great Hub.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi, Darlene I really do appreciate the your encouraging comments. Thank you my friend.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Yes it is so true, your passion for nature does shine like a gold do shine bright with your powerful and awesome hubs. Thumbs up and all the above.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Bkcreative, your are welcome, thank you for reading your comments were appreciated.

      jayjay40, thank you too, for your comments I know, like me you, you appreciate what nature has to offer.

      Kaie Arwen, thank you for reading the more we know about wild herbs and their benefits the richer are lives become.

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 

      8 years ago

      What great information! I learned a lot today!

      Thank you....... kaie

    • jayjay40 profile image


      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Another beautiful hub, your passion for all these herbs are communicated so well in your writing. Rated it up

    • BkCreative profile image


      8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I try to keep up with all that is natural and good - there is just so much and we have been sooooo far removed from it.

      Thanks so much for a very informative hub with all the much needed photos. I appreciate it and will bookmark for reference. Rated up of course!


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