HERB ROBERT-Geranium robertianum

Herb robert belongs to the family Geraniaceae, placed in the genus Geranium and the order of plants geraniales. these are the true geraniums often referred to as crane'sbills. Crane'sbills are so called because the elongated fruit capsules have a similar shape to the head and bill of the Crane a stork like bird.

Herb robert is known by other names such as stinking bob, stinky bob, red robin and robin flower. 

They are not related to the garden geraniums, used a bedding, pot plants and house plants which are native to Africa and belong to the genus Pelergoniums. however, herb robert was once also considered to be garden worthy but modern day gardeners regard them as a quickly spreading weed. They are easy to pull out of the ground at any stage of their lives and respond well to herbicides. They root almost anywhere including on walls, shed roofs, water guttering, between paving stones and in plant pots around the ornamental plants that are already growing there.

It is a common species throughout Europe, Asia and north Africa and may be encountered at altitudes of up to 1500 metres.  It is a biennial, or annual {self seeding readily}. In the wider countryside they may be found in a variety of locations including deciduous woodland, hedgerows, mountain rocks and screes, waste land, on walls and by the sea shore.

In the USA it is known as Robert geranium. In Spain Hierba de san roberto, Sweden as Stinknava and Poland as Bodziszek cuchnancy. 

Herb robert

Photo by Dal


Herb robert has a very shallow root system, that produces hairy spreading stems which have thickened nodes. The stem and foliage produce a somewhat unpleasant smell that gives the rise to the plants other names of stinking bob { UK } AND STINKY BOB { USA}.

The lower leaves have 3-5 lobes which are toothed down to the midrib, they are borne on thin stalks. the stem, stalks, and foliage are often tinged red. The intensity of the red colouring depends on growing conditions.

The flowers are small and appear from May until October or much later than this if conditions remain favourable. they are of a pink colour fading to white in the centre., with two red stripes along the length of the petals. the anthers are bright orange. there are 5 petals which are rounded at the tips they have no notches. They are 14-18 mm wide and they are borne in pairs as a rule. The calyx is hairy.

The flowers are similar to those of the hedgerow crane'sbill geranium pyrenaicum, however, the petals of that species are deeply notched. the sepals are 6-8 mm long, erect. The petals are 9-12 mm long.

The flowers are succeeded by the fruits {seed capsules}. In common with all geraniums they produce a very long beak which is formed by the persistent styles attached to the seeds. As the ripe fruits dry out, they spring back, helping to disperse the seeds as far as 20 metres from the parent plant.

Connected to the seeds are the sticky threads which easily attach themselves to leaves or passing animals or the clothes of people. The seeds that are attached to leaves are washed down by the rain if they are not removed  by someone brushing against them.

Herb robert seeds are capable of germinating soon after dispersal if there is adequate moisture. They are even capable of germinating during the autumn such seedlings over winter as small rosettes. They begin to produce elongated growth early in the following spring, these plants will then fruit in the early summer.  

Herb robert foliage note the red stems.

Courtesy of Sannse CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Flower of herb robert

Photo by Dal

Troublesome weed?

In some countries they are regarded as a troublesome weed. According to the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board herb robert,-robert geranium is a noxious weed. they state;" It poses a threat to the forest under story and to plant diversity in the forests of Western Washington. it is capable of flowering under a full closed canopy. Where it occurs, there appears to be fewer native herbaceous species."

Herb Robert in medicine.

The active ingredients include Tannins, Bitters,  and essential oils.


Herb robert was traditionally used for nose bleeds and as a cure for toothache. The juice of the root was considered a panaceae for all complaints of the ears; and the seeds mixed with pepper and myrrh were administered in cases of spinal or other cramps.

the 17th century herbalist Culpeper, in his work the "The Complete Herbal"  states--" The herb robert is commended not only against the stone, but to stay blood, wheresoever flowing it speedily heals all green wounds and is effectual in old ulcers, in the privy parts or elsewhere.; you may pursuade yourself this is true, and also conceive a good reason for it, do but consider it is an herb of Venus, for all it hath a man's name. 

Modern day uses of herb robert.

 Today herb robert is still used  as a gargle for the mouth and gum infections and to clean bleeding wounds.. An infusion is prepared from 2 teaspoons of the herb in 250ml of boiling water. Leave for 5mins to infuse then drain off.

In homeopathy it is used to heal internal bleeding, also as a diuretic and as a mouth antiseptic.

Anyone trying wild herbs for the first time either for medicinal or culinary use is advised to click on WILD HERB ADVISE, the banner appears on the right hand side of this page. 

The elongated fruits give this family their common name of crane's bill

Courtesy of Leslie Seaton  CC BY-SA 2.0 License.

One of many cultivated members of the Family.

Photo by Dal

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