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U.S. Forest Service

Plant of the Week

Map of the United States showing states. States are colored green where the species may be found. Range map of Geranium maculatum. States are colored green where the species may be found.

Geranium maculatum. Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) whole plant. Photo by David D. Taylor.

Geranium maculatum. Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) close up. Photo by David D. Taylor.

Geranium maculatum. Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), close up of flower with pollen grains. Photo © 2010 David D. Taylor.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatumL.)

By David D. Taylor

Wild geranium is in the Geraniaceae (Geranium) family. This family contains about 650 species worldwide that range from small weedy herbs to succulent shrubs. They are found worldwide. The garden geranium, with roots in South Africa, is in this family, but belongs to a different genus (Pelargonium). About 50 species and varieties are known from North America and Hawai'i, including a number of introduced weeds. This geranium species is found from North and South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana east to the Atlantic with the exception of Florida. It is also known from Ontario and Quebec.

This geranium grows from thick rhizomes that are generally not far under the soil. Overtime, a single plant can produce a clump of 60 to 100 centimeters (2 to 3 feet) in diameter. Palmately dissected and toothed leaves emerge in late spring, are about 8 to 10 centimeters (3 to 4 inches) across, and long. They are on long petioles. Summer leaves are up to 15 cm (6 in) long and wide. Flowers are produced in small clusters at the end of long stems. They are rose-purple and 2.5 to 4 centimeters (1 to 1.5 inches) across. Flowers are present in April to July depending on location.

The crane's-bill common name comes from the shape of the fruit before it releases seed. The fruit is usually composed five spring-loaded sections that form a long pointy structure, with a shape similar to a crane's bill. When the fruits ripen, the sections spring upward and each section throws a seed away from the parent plant. Typical habitat is in rich forest, fields, meadows, and thickets. It is usually abundant in these locations. It makes a fine garden plant and it is available from many native plant nurseries. Never dig plants from the wild.

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