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Small-flowered Cranes­bill

Geranium pusillum

  • Name also: Small-flowered Crane’s-bill, Small Geranium
  • Family: Geranium Family – Geraniaceae
  • Growing form: Annual or overwintering herb. Taproot strong on plants that have overwintered.
  • Height: 10–30 cm (4–12 in.). With many stems, stem ascending or sometimes erect, many-branched, bristly, short-haired–virtually glabrous, usually reddish.
  • Flower: Regular (actinomorphic), 4–6 mm (0.16–0.24 in.) broad. Petals 5, light purple, with shallowly notched tips. Sepals 5, hairy, tipless, same length as petals. Stamens 10, some without anthers. Pistil of 5 used carpels. Flowers usually in pairs, axillary or terminating stems.
  • Leaves: In basal rosette and on stem opposite or solitary. Rosette leaves long-stalked, stem leaves stalked–short-stalked, stipulate. Blade quite round, with palmate venation, very deeply 5–9-lobed; lobes on basal leaves often covering one another, blunt-tipped, often 3-toothed, teeth rounded.
  • Fruit: 5-parted schizocarp, tip beak-like, coiling up when ripe. Mericarps glossy, smoothly haired.
  • Habitat: Yards, gardens, wasteland, rocks, Meadows, hillside ridges, loading areas.
  • Flowering time: June–September.

Small-flowered cranesbill is rather modest and small-flowered compared to many of its relatives. It favours cultural environments and can be found on field banks and grazing land and by roadsides in the southern half of Finland, while the odd sighting can be made as far north as the Lapland border. Small-flowered cranesbill spread to Finland with people in ancient times, as can be seen from the way it grows in meadows around ancient castles. Later this population was joined by other plants that arrived in e.g. sailing boats’ ballast soil, soldiers’ provisions, and mixed in with other useful plant seeds. It seems that Finnish small-flowered cranesbill has for a long time sprouted in late summer, and the overwintering rosettes have then flowered the following spring before the plant withers. After WWII another type appeared which sprouts in spring, grows throughout the summer and by autumn already has a large, eye-catching rosette. Anyone can examine which type their local plants belong to.

Small-flowered cranesbill can be confused with dove’s foot cranesbill (G. molle) with is rarer in Finland and grows further south. The hair on small-flowered cranesbill’s stems and leaf-stalks is very short, while on dove’s foot cranesbill it is long. Flowering small-flowered cranesbill’s petals are hardly longer than its sepals, and out of ten stamens only every other one has an anther, and sometimes all the stamens can lack anthers. In the fruiting stage the surface of small-flowered cranesbill’s carpel is glossy and finely haired, while dove’s foot cranesbill’s is wrinkle-veined and glabrous.

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

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