Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wild Geraniums

A true member of the Geranium family, the wild variety has small clusters of flowers with five showy, rose-pink petals. After the petals fall, a long "beak" remains and gives geraniums the nickname "cranesbill." The Greek word for crane is geranos, which is the root of our common name, geranium. The wild one is also called spotted crane flower, but the reason for "spotted" eludes me.

Growing one to two feet tall, Wild Geraniums (Geranium maculatum) are found in woods and shady roadsides, often near streams, from Maine to Georgia and west to Arkansas and Manitoba. The attractive, soft-green, hairy leaves are deeply divided into five (sometimes 3-7) radial lobes reminiscent of Silver Maple leaves.

The roots are rich in tannin and were once used in folk medicine to treat a variety of ailments. This earned the plant the name astringent-root.
With attractive flowers that are 1-1.5 inches in diameter, the plant rates a place in ornamental gardens. Wild Geraniums are now available commercially, as are many native wildflowers.

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