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[An Archaeologist’s Guide to British Species] #13: Avens, Wood

February 18, 2021

In 2021, I am blogging an A-Z compendium of human interactions with species in the British landscape. A list of references for information used in this series can be found here. Today we reach the end of letter A, with an attractive and useful woodland wildflower.

Geum urbanum in flower
Geum urbanum. Public domain image, source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Geum_urbanum_bgiu.jpg

Avens, Wood

Geum urbanum L.

Also known as Herb Bennet and the Blessed Herb.

A herbaceous plant of hedgerows and woodlands. It bears yellow flowers from June-August which give way to seeds with hooked prickles that catch on clothing and animal fur. Its roots have been used to flavour ale, as a spice, and to make tea. They have a cloves-like scent, and contain eugenol. They have been used to produce antiseptic and anti-bacterial extracts, while dried they have been hung with clothing to repel moths. In the 15th-16th centuries wood avens was hung in houses to keep the devil away. The name herb bennet is derived from a shortening of benedictus, indicating the supposed powers against evil spirits.

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