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SPECIES:  Geranium maculatum
Spotted geranium. Photo by Jennifer Anderson, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.



SPECIES: Geranium maculatum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Sullivan, Janet. 1992. Geranium maculatum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
Revisions: On 3 April 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from: wild geranium to: spotted geranium. Images were also added. ABBREVIATION : GERMAC SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY NRCS PLANT CODE : GEMA COMMON NAMES : spotted geranium cranesbill spotted cranesbill wild cranesbill wild geranium TAXONOMY : The scientific name of spotted geranium is Geranium maculatum L. Named varieties listed by Jones and Jones [22] are: Geranium maculatum var. album Lauman, Geranium maculatum var. plenum Lauman, and Geranium maculatum var. maculatum. A white-flowered form is listed as Geranium maculatum forma albiflorum House [15,22]. LIFE FORM : Forb FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Geranium maculatum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Spotted geranium is found throughout eastern North America from southern Ontario south to Georgia and west to eastern Oklahoma and eastern North and South Dakota [15,19,27].
Distribution of spotted geranium. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, April 3] [35].
   FRES10  White - red - jack pine
   FRES12  Longleaf - slash pine
   FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine
   FRES14  Oak - pine
   FRES15  Oak - hickory
   FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood
   FRES18  Maple - beech - birch

     AL  AR  CT  DE  GA  IL  IN  IA  KS  KY
     LA  ME  MD  MA  MI  MN  MS  MO  NE  NH
     NJ  NY  NC  ND  OH  OK  PA  RI  SC  SD
     TN  VT  VA  WA  WI  ON  PQ


   K081  Oak savanna
   K082  Mosaic of K074 and K100
   K095  Great Lakes pine forest
   K099  Maple - basswood forest
   K100  Oak - hickory forest
   K101  Elm - ash forest
   K102  Beech - maple forest
   K103  Mixed mesophytic forest
   K104  Appalachian oak forest
   K106  Northern hardwoods
   K108  Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
   K109  Transition between K104 and K106
   K110  Northeastern oak - pine forest
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest

    20  White pine - northern red oak - red maple
    21  Eastern white pine
    25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
    26  Sugar maple - basswood
    27  Sugar maple
    28  Black cherry - maple
    39  Black ash - American elm - red maple
    42  Bur oak
    51  White pine - chestnut oak
    52  White oak - black oak - northern red oak
    53  White oak
    55  Northern red oak
    57  Yellow-poplar
    59  Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
    60  Beech - sugar maple
    75  Shortleaf pine
    78  Virginia pine - oak
    82  Loblolly pine - hardwood
    83  Longleaf pine - slash pine
   108  Red maple


Jones [20,21] reported spotted geranium as a dominant understory species in
a submesic northern red oak (Quercus rubra)/white oak (Q. alba)/wild
geranium community type in the hilly coastal plain province of South
Carolina.  The overstory dominance is shared among northern red oak,
white oak, pignut hickory (Carya glabra), and yellow-poplar
(Liriodendron tulipifera).  The shrub layer dominants are sweet-shrub
(Calycanthus floridus) and redbud (Cercis canadensis), with white ash
(Fraxinus americanus) in canopy gaps.  The ground layer herbaceous
dominants include spotted geranium, Christmas fern (Polystichum
acrostichoides), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), lovage (Ligusticum
canadense), and cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa).


SPECIES: Geranium maculatum
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : White-tailed deer eat the flowers of spotted geranium. Birds eat the maturing fruits, and Lepidopteran larvae have been observed feeding on the flowers and fruits [1]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : Extracts of spotted geranium have been used medicinally by Native Americans to treat diarrhea and various mouth ailments. Powdered preparations were used to treat open sores or wounds. The rhizome contains tannic and gallic acids, which contribute to its astringent quality. Clinical trials have shown that tannins promote blood clotting, supporting its use for bleeding sores or wounds [5]. Spotted geranium can be cultivated as an ornamental by transplanting rhizomes or by starting from stratified seed [13,27]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Spotted geranium appears to be dependent on the continued existence of undisturbed stands of mesic, open forests. It is not usually found on disturbed sites [4] and is not noted for rapid colonization [27]. It appears to be sensitive to acidification of soils, and thus areas that are experiencing acid rain are likely to become less hospitable to wild geranium [18]. Spotted geranium is easily cultivated. DeVault [13] transplanted rhizomes of plants growing under closed forest to a fertile, full sun garden. The plants, which had been growing poorly, responded with vigorous growth under garden conditions.


SPECIES: Geranium maculatum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Spotted geranium is perennial herb 8 to 24 inches (20-60 cm) tall [29]. It grows from a stout, branched, underground rhizome that spreads horizontally up to 6 inches (15 cm). The rhizome bears 10 to 30 sparsely branched roots from the sides and undersurface. Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal structures are present, increasing with decreasing fertility of the soil [7,27,29,32]. A small proportion (4 percent) of populations are male-sterile; these female plants produce an average of 60 percent more seed than hermaphroditic plants [1]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Hemicryptophyte Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Spotted geranium perennates from a stout rhizome with blunt white tips that hold the following year's bud [27,32]. Fragmentation of the rhizome results in new individuals [28]. Natural stands are mosaics of clones that appear to have enlarged from old, individual plants and persist by vegetative means only [27]. Spotted geranium is long-lived and has a low mortality rate [1]. When crowded, the roots may rise above the soil surface, exposing the buds to freezing [32]. Martin [27] noted that the rhizomes are found at the soil surface (A1 horizon) under closed canopies but in open communities are as deep as 3 to 4 inches (7-9 cm) below the surface. Young plants usually bloom for the first time in their second or third year but will flower the first year following germination in the greenhouse [27,32]. Production of flower buds, which will expand the following year, takes place when sufficient nutrients are stored [12,27]. Under closed canopies, only 18.8 percent of the plants flower, as opposed to 97 percent in full sunlight [27]. Spotted geranium is self-compatible but depends on pollinators for seed set. The most common pollinators are bees (honeybees, bumblebees) and syrphid flies. Other visitors to the flowers include beetles and ants [1,27,28,37]. Seeds are produced in a dehiscent fruit and are scattered by explosive dispersal an average of 10 feet (3 m) and a maximum of 30 feet (9 m). There is no obvious secondary dispersal vector (i.e. not carried by rainwash or animals) [27,32,33]. Schiffman [31] reported spotted geranium seeds in the seed bank of a chestnut oak (Quercus prinus)/scarlet oak (Q. coccinea) forest. The seed coat is only slightly permeable, and the seed requires stratification before germination will take place. The longer the cold treatment, the higher the germination rate [27]. The seeds can have a dormancy period in excess of 400 days. In a study of savanna restoration, Bronny [8] reported that spotted geranium reappeared when cattle grazing was prevented on an oak savanna site, indicating either its presence in the seed bank or the persistence of rhizomes in the soil. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Spotted geranium is found in woods, coves, thickets, and meadows [15,29]. It appears to prefer more mesic sites such as those found on mid to lower slopes with northern and eastern aspects; preferred soils are clay loam to sandy clay loams and sandy loams [9,20,21,23,27], of average to above-average fertility, and from slightly alkaline or neutral to slightly acidic [7,27,32]. In a study of plant distribution and soil acidity, Wherry [36] found spotted geranium in abundance on a rich bottomland site on Long Island with soil pH of 6.5. Fifty years later, on the same site, Greller and others [18] found that the soil pH had declined to 4.08, and spotted geranium had become a very minor component of the community. Spotted geranium is abundant in dense patches in natural openings throughout mesic woodlands [27,37]. It is found on sites protected from strong winds, in open shade on hillsides, and on shaded roadsides [32]. Cull [11], working on a project to establish native plants on old highway verges in Illinois, found it already present on the site. In a study relating understory herb distribution to overstory trees, Crozier and others [10] reported that the highest positive association of spotted geranium is with white oak when compared with its other common associates: beech (Fagus grandifolia), yellow-poplar, red maple (Acer rubrum), sweet birch (Betula lenta), black cherry (Prunus serotina), and northern red oak. This association may be a result of higher calcium in the soils under white oaks, due to runoff down the trunk of the tree. Tree associates in addition to the above named include shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), white ash (Fraxinus americana), eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), and American elm (Ulmus americana) [4,9,19,20,24]. Common understory associates include Solomon's seal (Polygonatum pubescens), false Solomon's seal (Smilacina racemosa), snow trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), Anemonella thalictroides, common mayapple (Podophyllum peltatus), sedge (Carex spp.), and bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) [9,10,12,34]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Spotted geranium is moderately shade tolerant. It is found on disturbed sites, but populations of spotted geranium are best established in open, undisturbed forest [27]. In a study of secondary succession on the New Jersey Piedmont, Bard [4] found populations of spotted geranium on undisturbed sites and did not find it in abandoned fields at any stage of succession. This may indicate that its presence in seed banks is short-lived and/or that spotted geranium is not an effective colonizer. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : The basal leaves of spotted geranium emerge in early spring (around the period of vernal canopy closure) over a period of 4 to 6 weeks, attaining 50 percent of total growth between late April and the first week of May [7]. The stems elongate in April, and blooms appear from April to June, setting fruit 3 to 5 weeks later [27,29,32]. Flower buds are formed in the year previous to flowering and are enclosed in the winter bud. Cauline leaves senesce around October, turning red and yellow, and are lost shortly therafter. The basal leaves die down in October and November in the midwestern states, later in the southern states [27].


SPECIES: Geranium maculatum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : NO-ENTRY FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community) Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Geranium maculatum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : No direct documentation of the direct effect of fire on spotted geranium is available. However, in light of the fact that the rhizome is found at the soil surface under closed canopies and 3 to 4 inches (7-9 cm) deep under open canopies [27], it is reasonable to suggest that the plant is more easily killed by fire where the rhizome is closer to the soil surface. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Spotted geranium increases in abundance immediately after fire [2]. On a site invaded by black cherry and multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), wild geranium reappeared following a prescribed fire that top-killed the invading cherry saplings [8]. The Research Paper by Bowles and others 2007 provides information on postfire responses of several plant species, including spotted geranium, that was not available when this species review was originally written. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Geranium maculatum
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New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 26. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496] 27. Martin, M. Celine. 1965. An ecological life history of Geranium maculatum. American Midland Naturalist. 73(1): 111-149. [19196] 28. McCall, C.; Primack, R. B. 1987. Resources limit the fecundity of three woodland herbs. Oecologia. 71(3): 431-435. [19188] 29. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606] 30. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 31. Schiffman, Paula M.; Johnson, W. Carter. 1992. Sparse buried seed bank in a southern Appalachian oak forest: implications for succession. American Midland Naturalist. 127(2): 258-267. [18191] 32. Sperka, Marie. 1973. Growing wildflowers: A gardener's guide. New York: Harper & Row. 277 p. [10578] 33. Stamp, Nancy E.; Lucas, Jeffrey R. 1983. Ecological correlates of explosive seed dispersal. Oecologia. 59: 272-278. [11089] 34. Szeicz, J. M.; MacDonald, G. M. 1991. Postglacial vegetation history of oak savanna in southern Ontario. Canadian Journal of Botany. 69: 1507-1519. [16607] 35. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: [34262] 36. Wherry, Edgar T. 1923. A soil acidity map of a Long Island wild garden. Ecology. 4(4): 395-401. [19195] 37. Willson, Mary F.; Miller, Linda J.; Rathcke, Beverly J. 1979. Floral display in Phlox and Geranium: adaptive aspects. 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