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Wood Cranes­bill

Geranium sylvaticum

  • Name also: Wood Crane’s-bill, Woodland Geranium
  • Family: Geranium Family – Geraniaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock strong, horizontal, with brown scales.
  • Height: 25–50 cm (10–20 in.). Stem cylindrical, erect-branched, basal part long-haired, more commonly short-haired.
  • Flower: Regular (actinomorphic), 15–35 mm (0.6–1.4 in.) broad (sometimes also clearly smaller, unisexual pistillate flowers). Petals 5, dark purple, red or white, quite round–with notched tips. Sepals 5, membranous margins, hairy, sharp-pointed, clearly shorter than petals. Stamens 10 (sometimes remaining undeveloped). Pistil of 5 used carpels. Flowers usually in pairs (sometimes several together) axillary or terminating stems. Flower-stalks erect.
  • Leaves: In basal rosette and on stem opposite. Basal leaves long-stalked, stem leaves short-stalked–stalkless, stipulate. Blade round, with palmate venation, 5–7-lobed; lobes quite broad, large-toothed.
  • Fruit: 5-parted schizocarp, tip beak-like, coiling up when ripe. Mericarps glossy, hairy.
  • Habitat: Broad-leaved forests, young and grove-like forest heaths, stream banks, shore hedgerows, meadows, banks.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Wood cranesbill grows to some extent all over Finland. It is especially familiar in northern Finland where it is known as Midsummer flower because of its flowering time – in southern Finland in flowers earlier, at the beginning of June. Other folk names refer to its purple flowers.

The array of folk names that wood cranesbill is known by in Finland shows that it is one of the country’s most impressive and best-known forest plants. Carl von Linné himself claimed that there was no finer flower in the forest. The species is more common than before, growing in logging clearings and next to forest roads. In southern Finland wood cranesbill is most abundant in broad-leaved forests and young forest heaths, as well as damp meadows. In the north it also grows in broad-leaved forests as well as being characteristic of rich swamps and bogs.

Wood cranesbill mutates easily: the colour and size of the flowers varies more than any other Finnish forest plant. As a rule of thumb, the strongest crimsons and purplish colours are focused in the south of Finland, while pale violet and white flowers are common on the northern fells. However, all different colours can be found among neighbouring plants. Wood cranesbill’s flowers are usually bisexual, but sometimes it produces purely female plants, which have clearly smaller flowers.

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

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