Crane's bills the True Geraniums.

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.

Geraniums { Pelargoniums} Many people regard these as the true geraniums.

Image by Dal  dalswildlifesite.comMost people regard these plants has being the true geraniums.Photograph by D.A.L.

The small pink flowers of Herb Robert peeping out among taller vegetation

Image by Dal dalswildlifesite.comThe 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.

Close up of the flower

Image courtesy of Alvesgasper CC BY-SA 3.0 License.Cut leaved crane's-bill. Photograph by courtesy of Alvesgasper

Geranium mollis

Image courtesy of H.Zell CC BY-SA 3.0 license.Geranium mollis. photograph courtesy of H.Zell

Other crane's bills

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. This cultivar is similar to Meadow Crane's bill

Image by Dal  dalswildlifesite.These cultivars are similar to those of the meadow cranes-bill ,Photograph by D.A.L.

This pink-flowered variety is easily divided with a spade.

Image Dal. dalswildlifesite.comThis variety is easily divided with a spade. Photograph by D.A.L.

The shape of the seed pods give the plants their common name

Image by Dal. dalswildlifesite.comThe seed pods. The shape give the plants their common name of crane's-bill.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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