Geraniums in the wild
Geraniums are one of my favourite garden plants but I’m only just getting to grips with the wide range of wild ones. Only recently have I discovered very pale forms of Geranium molle and robertianum. And I learnt to ID Geranium dissectum and pyrenaicum even more recently. Newest on the list – added in 2021 is Long-stalked Cranesbill Geranium columbinum.
Herb Robert – Geranium robertianum
This small species loves dry places such as walls and often has a purple tinge to the leaves and stems. It’s hairy with small pink flowers, sometimes very pale. The pale form shown below was a gift from Mercy Morris’ garden, where it had self-seeded, to mine – (a talented horticulturalist and houseplant expert, she is very knowledgeable on geraniums, scented leaf pelargoniums and erodiums).
Dove’s foot cranesbill – Geranium molle
I find this next small species mostly in grass. It has less divided leaves than herb robert, and less purple in the foliage. The pale form of this was pointed out to me on a Wildflower Society walk in Eastbourne.
Hedgerow cranesbill – Geranium pyrenaicum
I grow this in my garden and in 2020 spotted it growing wild near Devizes Wiltshire in long grass by a canal, and again in long grass in a hedgerow near Kingsbridge Devon. It is pink, similar to G. molle but larger and sometimes with a white eye.
Meadow cranesbill – Geranium pratense
A large flowered purple geranium with very divided leaves, growing in open spaces – the one below was on the edge of a field and about 50cm high.
Cut-leaved cranesbill – Geranium dissectum
I struggled to identify this initially because my main go-to book, The Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose, didn’t picture or mention the particular layout of the flowers. It mentions the dissected leaves, but this in itself isn’t enough information for an amateur like me – just take a look at pratense above. But when I googled dissectum I saw the flowers I recognised (many flower images on google are incorrectly labelled but if you bring up a whole page of them it’s easy to spot the outliers). The flowers are held in clusters.
The above pic was taken on my hike in the Seaford Head Nature Reserve but I didn’t include it in my blog post as I hadn’t Identified it then. The whole plant was about 50cm high in long grass competing with cow parsley and vetches.
Long-stalked Cranesbill – Geranium columbinum
I spotted this flower for the first time on chalk grassland in the South Downs National Park at Gayles Farm above the Seven Sisters cliffs in Sussex. Luckily Chris was familiar with it and was able to ID it for me.
The plant bears single pale pink flowers with five petals on elongated stems. I would say the max height was about 15cm, growing in long grass. The third image shows the delicate dissected foliage. It was flowering in July.