Three-Flowered Aven, Prairie Smoke


On the dry open prairie, the stem rises 20–40 cm above basal leaves, and supports three nodding, purplish-pink flowers. By late June, the seed-heads have formed erect clusters of feathery styles. Large patches of these plants that have gone to seed look like a smoky haze drifting across the prairie, hence their common name, prairie smoke.

The roots, ripe seeds and dried leaves were used by the First Nations people. A decoction made from the boiled roots was used to treat sore or swollen eyes; the aromatic oils from the crushed seeds were used for perfume, and dried leaves were mixed with other medicines and used as a tonic. (Johnston 39)


Growth habit and range: This is an erect perennial herb which is commonly found on open prairie sites. This plant grows to a height of 15–40 cm.

Description: The 15–20 cm long leaves are basal, pinnately compound, and bright green in colour. The alternate, wedge-shaped leaflets are narrowly toothed. The flowers appear in spring (mid-May to July) and are usually borne in groups of three (but may occur singly or in groups of up to 5) atop a slender reddish stem. A few small stem leaves are often present. Each upright to nodding flower measures 12–20 mm in diameter, and displays purplish sepals and small pink to yellowish petals. The fruit is an achene with a 2–5 cm long, feathery style. 


  • Johnston, Alex. 1987. Plants and the Blackfoot. Occasional Paper No. 15., Lethbridge Historical Society, AB.