Geum rivale (Purple Avens)

Plant Info
Also known as: Water Avens
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; wet; meadows, fens, swamps, along streams and lakes
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] 1 to 3 long-stalked flowers in an open spreading cluster at tip of the stem. Flowers are ¾ to 1 inch long, initially nodding but turning erect after pollination, with 5 broadly triangular, pointed, reddish purple sepals enclosing 5 pale yellow to creamy white petals, infused and veined with purple and slightly shorter than the sepals. Flower stalks, outer surface of the sepals and stems are hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: palmate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Primary basal leaves are fiddle shaped in outline, 6 to 8 inches long and 3½ inches wide, coarsely toothed, hairy, pinnately compound with 7 to 17 irregular leaflets, the smallest towards the base with 3 to 5 large leaflets crowded at the tip. Upper stem leaves are progressively smaller, becoming stalkless, simple and 3-lobed or palmately compound in 3s. Stems are erect, single or several, and hairy.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry seed with a 1-inch plume, often feathery on the upper half.


Like one of its common name suggests, Water Avens prefers wet, swampy habitats, typically in deep shady, northern forests. It is a circumpolar species native to parts of Europe and Asia as well as North America. Up close the flower can be surprisingly vibrant but its wispy growth habit and lush environment keeps it fairly cryptic until it's right at your knees. Of note is that a number of images taken in other regions show the flower petal color ranging from orange to red to pink and purple. This is possibly a regional trait but who knows? The dominant color in Minnesota is yellowish.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Landscape Alternatives
  • ReWild Native Gardens
  • Out Back Nursery
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds

More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin and Marshall counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Knell
on: 2016-02-03 07:37:23

The color variation might be due to G. rivale's ability to hybridize easily with other members of the genus -- some sources say G. rivale x urbanum often has yellow flowers.

Posted by: Brett W - Isanti county
on: 2019-06-12 21:01:39

Found a couple of plants in Lyndon Cedarglade Park. Didn't know what it was, first time seeing it. On the edge of a wetland in deep shade as the canopy has developed.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.