Herbs of Tenerife: Canary Island Geranium and the British Herb Robert
Canary Island Geranium grows in forests
Canary Island Geranium (Geranium canariense) is pretty plant that grows in the evergreen laurel forests or "laurisilva" in Tenerife, La Gomera and Gran Canaria, although it is rather rare in the last of these. It is a medicinal herb as well as being an attractive wild flower.
Canary Island Geranium is a close relation of the common European herb known as Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), and looks like a much larger version of its smaller but more widely distributed cousin. It is quite remarkable to see how similar the two plants are but the Canary Islands endemic species is so much bigger.
Canary Island Geranium described
Canary Island Geranium has attractive pink flowers and divided leaves. It grows from a fleshy root-stock and is found along paths and in clearings in the woodlands of the Canary Islands it is a native of.
It is a very attractive wild flower and one of the many species that add their colour and charm to the forests of Tenerife and the Canary Islands.
In Spanish it is known as "Pata de Gallo". Canary Island Geranium has a number of medicinal properties that have seen the plant used in folk medicine of the islands.
It is astringent and antiseptic, and an infusion or decoction of the roots and leaves can be taken as a remedy for gastritis and diarrhoea. A herbal tea made from the plant makes a good mouthwash and can be used to gargle with as a treatment for tonsillitis, as well as a remedy for mouth infections such as gingivitis, ulcers and mouth sores.
Powdered leaves of Canary Island Geranium can be applied directly to minor wounds and cuts and will help stop bleeding. Mixed with olive oil the herb is used to treat piles and can also be made into suppositories.
A weak infusion of the plant has diuretic properties, will reduce blood sugar levels and is said to lower blood pressure so this makes it a very useful herb for practitioners of herbal medicine..
Herb Robert is a far more widely distributed plant and is common in the UK, Europe, North Africa, North America and parts of Asia. It also grows in the Canary Islands where it is used in herbal medicine too and is known as "Hierba de San Roberto".
It can grow in shaded areas and in woodlands but also in drier places including waste ground and along stony paths. It has flowers and leaves that are like smaller versions of those of the Canary Island Geranium and its stems tend to be reddish in colouring, especially if it has been growing in strong sunlight and exposed conditions.
Herb Robert gives off an unpleasant smell when lightly bruised. It actually smells as if it would have antiseptic properties and it does. It is a smell you wouldn't be likely to forget although you might well want to because most people don't like it. Herb Robert is another medicinal herb and has the same uses as its much larger relative.