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Bloody Cranes­bill

Geranium sanguineum

  • Name also: Bloody Crane’s-bill, Bloody Geranium
  • Family: Geranium Family – Geraniaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock strong, horizontal, branched, with brown scales.
  • Height: 20–50 cm (8–20 in.). Stem slightly bristly, hairy, usually reddish.
  • Flower: Regular (actinomorphic), 30–40 mm (1.2–1.6 in.) broad. Petals 5, dark purplish red, occasionally white, with shallowly notched tips. Sepals 5, hairy, sharp-pointed, significantly shorter than petals. Stamens 10. Pistil of 5 used carpels. Flowers usually solitary in axils.
  • Leaves: In basal rosette and on stem opposite. Basal leaves long-stalked, in flowering stage often withered; stem leaves short-stalked, stipulate. Blade quite round, shiny, with palmate venation, deeply 7-lobed; lobes narrow, with entire margins, tip 3-toothed.
  • Fruit: 5-parted schizocarp, tip beak-like, coiling up when ripe. Mericarps glossy, sparsely hairy.
  • Habitat: Stony ridges, meadows, coppices, forest margins, rocks. Also an ornamental and escape from cultivation.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Bloody cranesbill is mainly a European species whose natural habitat only just reaches Finland in the north. It demands high summer temperatures and calciferous soil, and it makes a beautiful sight when it blooms on Juniper meadows and meadow banks on the Åland Islands and the south-west outer archipelago. Apart from its traditional habitats it also grows in a few places on the Finnish mainland as an alien, having probably travelled there a long time ago with people. The species is also cultivated in gardens, from where it sometimes escapes to the wild or has kept growing where it was planted after the garden has been abandoned.

Bloody cranesbill still has something to show after its purple bloom has passed because its green leaves darken in the autumn and turn crimson. It is possible to get an early hint in the summer already of the colours that will follow in the autumn if one comes across a withered or damaged leaf. It is apparently this fiery autumn colouring rather than its red flowers or the use of its root as a dye that has given the plant its name. Its scientific name is also in accord with its common one: sanguineum means ‘bloody’. Bloody cranesbill has been used in folk medicine along with other cranesbills to arrest bleeding and treat wounds.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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