Wood avens

Wood avens leaves (Geum urbanum)
Lurking in gardens and wild spaces, Wood Avens quietly thrives, providing aromatic roots reminiscent of cloves to avid foragers.

Table of Contents

Wood Avens: Plant profile

Common names

Wood Avens, Herb Bennet, Bennet’s Root, Clove Root, Cloveroot, Colewort, St Benedict’s Herb, Old Man’s Whiskers

Botanical name

Geum Urbanum

Family

Rosaceae (Rose)

Distribution

Wood avens graces landscapes from Europe and Central Asia to the vast reaches of the Western Himalayas. It’s a familiar sight throughout the United Kingdom.

Where to find Wood Avens

Encountered amidst woodlands, hedgerows, scrublands, roadsides, gardens and shady areas.

When to find Wood Avens

Available throughout the year, though best harvested from Early Winter to Late Spring.

How to identify Wood Avens

A plant characterized by its basal rosette growth pattern, sporting upright, hairy, and branching stems. Its leaves bear a striking resemblance to those of wild strawberries.

In the months spanning from May to August, it bursts into bloom with five vibrant yellow petals. Its seeds take the form of burrs, while beneath the surface, a complex network of both sturdy and delicate roots intertwines, anchoring it firmly in the earth.

Wood Avens lookalikes

While both Water Avens (Geum rivale) and Wild Strawberry (Fragaria spp) bear a superficial resemblance to Wood Avens, there’s a distinctive feature that sets them apart: the unmistakable clove-like scent emanating from the root.

Wood avens flower (Geum urbanum)

All about Wood Avens

Nestled amidst the nooks and crannies of gardens and untamed wild spaces, Wood Avens quietly thrives, claiming its territory with a tenacity that often goes unnoticed.

If you’ve ever wandered through the woodlands and stumbled upon unexpected greenery, chances are Wood Avens was among them.

Exploring the depths of culinary heritage, Wood Avens root was once prized as a flavouring agent for ale and fruit dishes. As foragers, we are interested in the aromatic and flavourful roots, which unleash a heady aroma reminiscent of cloves.

Medicinal properties of Wood Avens

All parts of the plant, particularly its root, boast an array of medicinal properties, serving as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, diaphoretic, febrifuge, stomachic, styptic, and tonic agent among other properties.

Wood Avens possesses astringent qualities, addressing oral, throat, and gastrointestinal problems. Its astringency tightens soft gums, promotes healing of mouth ulcers, serves as an effective gargle for infections, and alleviates irritation in the stomach.

Furthermore, modern research highlights Wood Avens’ antioxidant properties, attributed to polyphenols like eugenol, akin to those found in cloves. These compounds contribute to the herb’s antibacterial efficacy, underlining its therapeutic potential.

Culinary uses and recipes of Wood Avens

Wood Avens’ young leaves serve as a pot-herb in spring and summer, yet their bitter taste pales next to the prized small, fine roots. Emitting a sweet clove scent with hints of cinnamon, these roots provide a milder, distinct flavour akin to cloves.

Wood Avens’ roots enrich beverages such as homemade chai and elevate mulled wine, cider, whisky, or hot buttered rum with their warm, sweet aroma. The roots elevate bittersweet drinks like vermouth or amaro and make a flavourful liqueur base on its own.

Wood Avens roots enhance curries, fruit dishes, cakes, and sauces, especially with apples and plums. Dehydrate and grind for storage, but note flavour loss. Opt for fresh use or cook into syrup for maximum flavour retention.

Wood avens root (Geum urbanum)

Safe foraging of Wood Avens

Due to its elevated tannin levels, caution is advised regarding excessive consumption of this herb. Overindulgence may lead to digestive discomfort or intestinal problems.

Ecological importance of Wood Avens

Wood Avens flowers provide a source of nectar for bees, ensuring pollination. Caterpillars of the grizzled skipper butterfly graze on its leaves, underscoring the plant’s role in supporting local biodiversity.

Come seed dispersal time, its sticky burrs easily break apart, hitching rides on hairy animals and occasionally human passersby, contributing to its widespread distribution.

Sustainable Wood Avens foraging

Wood Avens grows abundantly in the wild; however, adhere to usual foraging guidelines.Uprooting plants without landowner’s permission is illegal in the UK, please make sure you know the law.

Want to improve your foraging skills?

Join my newsletter to get a FREE ebook and receive plant profiles, seasonal reminders and foraging tips.

You agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy 

Picture of Alvaro // Wild Plant Guy

Alvaro // Wild Plant Guy

I am the human behind BritishLocalFood. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

Liked it? Share with friends!

Leave a comment