Water Avens

Latin name: Geum rivale

Family: Rosaceae

Water avens is a common perennial herb with orange-pink drooping flowers that are protected by purple sepals. It has several other local names including 'Billy Buttons' and 'Soldiers' Buttons'. This plant has a clever way of dispersing its seeds – the seeds feature tiny hooks that catch onto passing animals, allowing them to be spread. The roots of Water avens smell like cloves and have historically been used to cure a variety of ailments. They have also provided flavouring for drinks such as beer.

Water avens can be found throughout the British Isles, although the herb can be very localised in the South of England. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Water avens is common and flowers between May and August. Here its preferred habitat is damp grasslands, fen, ditches, open areas within woodland and on roadside verges. In woodland habitats, Water avens readily hybridise with the woodland species wood avens. The hybrid form can also be found in the National Park, in or close to woodlands where both of the parent species are present.

Go to the A-Z of wildlife

Wharfedale in Yorkshire is a valley favoured by nature and enriched by romance. From 'Wharfedale' by Ella Pontefract & Marie Hartley

Facts at your fingertips