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Marsh Cranesbill

Geranium palustre

  • Written also: Marsh Crane’s-bill
  • Family: Geranium Family – Geraniaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock short, thick, oblique–quite erect, with brown scales.
  • Height: 30–50 cm (12–20 in.). Stalk quite limp, bristly, long hairs spreading downwards.
  • Flower: Regular (actinomorphic), 25–30 mm (1–1.2 in.) wide. Petals 5, reddish purple, round-tipped. Sepals 5, hairy, sharp-pointed, with membranous margins, clearly shorter than petals. Stamens 10. Pistil of 5 fused carpels, style solitary, 5 stigmas. Style and base of stigmas hairy. Flowers usually in axillary pairs or terminal on shoots, inflorescence very lax.
  • Leaves: In basal rosette and opposite on stem. Rosette leaves long-stalked. Stalk leaves short-stalked–stalkless, stipulate. Blade 5–7-cornered with palmate venation, generally 5-lobed (deeply); lobes broad, large and blunt-toothed.
  • Fruit: 5-parted schizocarp, beak-like tip, beak segments coil at dehiscence. Mericarps glossy with spreading hairs.
  • Habitat: Damp meadows, ditches, hedgerows, forest margins, broad-leaved forests, gardens. Also ornamental.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

There are around 300 known species of Geranium, of which dozens grow naturally in Europe and 14 in Finland, some of them as annual weeds only accasionally.

Marsh cranesbill has a long history as a garden plant, from where it has occasionally escaped into surrounding areas. This long-flowering species is a fine addition to organic gardens. It used to be the custom to transfer feral plants to the garden, but nowadays it is considered wiser to leave marsh cranesbill growing where it is. People have influenced the plant’s area of distribution in many ways: for instance, marsh cranesbill seeds were brought to Finland by German soldiers, mixed in with their horses’ and mules’ provisions, which was shipped from Central Europe. Marsh cranesbill is also native to Finland, although it is rare. It grows in Southern Finland in ditches, moist pastures and hedgerows. It will be interesting to see if global warming will make the plant more common here, as it grows commonly along ditch-sides on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland.

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

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