Introducing the Crane's-bills the True Geraniums

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman

The crane's-bills are a diverse range of plants that belong to the family Geraniaceae - the true geraniums. The plants that most people think of as geraniums in fact belong to the genus Pelargonium, most of which are native to Africa, these include those bought as house plants, for conservatories and for bedding plants.

There are of course many crane's-bills that have been cultivated for gardens as we shall see. Many of the wild species of geraniums such as the cut-leaved crane's-bill Geranium disectum , the hedgerow crane's-bill G,pyrenaicum, the long stalked crane's-bill G,columbinum and herb robert Geranium robertianum, can be persitent garden weeds, the latter especially so. Thus it is with this species that I will begin with.

During late spring the flowers of Herb robert peep out of the hedgerow bottoms, their cheerful little faces being a joy to encounter on one's forays into the countryside. The flowers will persist right through the summer until late September in various degrees of frequency where they may found in a diverse range of habitat, woodland glades and banks, rocky or gravelly places, waste ground along old walls and of course, as previously mentioned in gardens where they are not, as a rule, made welcome.

Top. Geraniums {Pelargoniums}. Bottom Herb robert.

Most people regard these plants has being the true geraniums.Photograph by D.A.L.
Most people regard these plants has being the true geraniums.Photograph by D.A.L.
The small pink flowers of herb robert peep out from among taller foliage. Photograph by D.A.L.
The small pink flowers of herb robert peep out from among taller foliage. Photograph by D.A.L.

Basic Biology of Herb Robert.

The foliage and stems of this plant can vary in colour from green to varying degrees of red, depending on growing conditions and the amount of water available to them. Generally the less water available to them the redder the aerial parts become. { although nutrients and soluble salts also affect the plants} .The foliage is borne on very thin stalks, the leaves being deeply lobed and feathery in appearance. The flowers have five rounded petals pink fading to almost white with red stripes running down each petal. The flowers are relatively small half an inch {1cm} wide, sometimes less.

These are succeeded by long beaked seed pods borne in pairs. The shape of the seed pods give this family of plants their common name of crane's-bill, they are thought to resemble the head and beak of the crane a stork like bird. When the fruit is dry and ripe the pod bursts open thus distributing the seeds. The plant reaches the height of 10-50cm. 8-18 inches.

Cranesbills

Cut leaved crane's-bill. Photograph by courtesy of Alvesgasper
Cut leaved crane's-bill. Photograph by courtesy of Alvesgasper
Geranium mollis. photograph courtesy of H.Zell
Geranium mollis. photograph courtesy of H.Zell

Other Cranesbill

Another species likely to be encountered during countryside walks is the meadow crane's-bill that sports relatively large flowers 2-3 cm wide. They have violet or blue flowers with lightly coloured veins on the petals. The foliage is deeply divided into linear toothed segments. The plant grows up to 60-100cm {Three and a half foot}. They flower from June to September.

The hedgerow crane's-bill Geranium pyrenaicum has long stems topped with medium sized flowers 1.4 cm wide and of a pale pink colour with darker markings. The five petals are deeply notched giving the impression there could be ten petals. The flowers and succeeding seed pods are borne in pairs. The foliage have wide lobes with blunt teeth. The plant attains the height of 40-60 cm { one and half to two foot } tall. They flower from June until the end of August.

Other species of wild crane's-bill that may be encountered include the small flowered crane's-bill, the "bloody" crane's-bill.

A Look at Some Garden Varieties

These cultivars are similar to those of the meadow cranes-bill ,Photograph by D.A.L.
These cultivars are similar to those of the meadow cranes-bill ,Photograph by D.A.L.
The seed pods. The shape give the plants their common name of crane's-bill.Photograph by D.A.L.
The seed pods. The shape give the plants their common name of crane's-bill.Photograph by D.A.L.
This variety is easily divided with a spade. Photograph by D.A.L.
This variety is easily divided with a spade. Photograph by D.A.L.

Similar species

A similar species of wild flora is the common Stork's-bill and its relatives which have even longer seed pods than the crane's-bill and they are often in tightly clustered together like a bunch of upright fingers. These plants are found in dry sandy places such as on dry heath land, they are often found ear to the coast.

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Comments 3 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Kaie, I bet your father was pleased. Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment.

Darski,as always I have to thank you for reading and for leaving your kind comments.


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Oh DLH I love this hub, what wonderful pictures and I never knew our house plants that are flowers came from Africa, how delightful to know. This was another nice country stroll, learning and sharing nature in you special way. Thumbs you, your fan and friend.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

My father loved petunias and geraniums........ he once spent a small fortune on perrenial geraniums at a local conservatory.......... the only problem was he didn't tell my mother......... she dug them up and three them away! Beautiful choices........

Kaie

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