Geranium pratense - Meadow cranesbill

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Geraniales - Family: Geraniaceae

Geranium pratense, Meadow Cranesbill flowers on a field margin

One of the loveliest of the wildflowers of Britain and Ireland, Geranium pratense flowers are usually violet-blue, and sometimes a very deep blue on chalky soil,but pink and even pure white specimens are also seen occasionally.

Identification

Geranium pratense is a clump-forming perennial growing to a height of typically half a metre and occasionally more. (Near towns, cultivars from gardens are more common than wild plants.)

A closeup picture of the flowers and seed heads of Geraniu, pratense, Meadow Cranesbill

Meadow Cranesbill plants have a basal rosette of opposite long-stalked leaves above which arise several blunt-edged hairy stems branch occasionally and have short-stalked or stalkless 7- to 9-lobed palmate leaves that are deeply-cut, sharply-toothed and have pointed tips. As with other wild geraniums the stems tend to redden towards the end of the flowering season.

Individual flowers are 3 to 4cm across with five unnotched petals and five short pointed hairy sepals. Each flower has ten stamens and a pistil of five fused carpels. Borne usually in pairs on axilliary flower stalks, the flowers produce five-sectioned seed capsules with beak-like tips.

Distribution

Meadow Cranesbill is found in greatest abundance in the east of andsouth of England, although it can also be found right in the north of Scotland.

Meadow Cranesbill on a roadside verge, Wales

In Scandinavia, where this flower is widespread and common, it is called the Mid-summer Flower (Midsommar Blomster) because it can always be relied upon to be flowering in time for the Mid-summer celebrations - a far more important festival in those cold countries than Christmas!

Habitat

On the edges of permanent pastures, beside hedgerows and on roadside verges are the kinds of places where Meadow Cranesbill has escaped chemical herbicides and still thrives. This chalk-loving wildflower is also found on scrubby downland.

Blooming Times

In Britain and Ireland Meadow Cranesbill flowers fromJune until September; if they have been cut down by mowers in June, plants on roadsides often produce a second flush of flowers in September.

Meadow Cranesbill, Carmarthenshire, UK

Uses

With a stringent, styptic and antiseptic medical properties, Meadow Cranesbill and its close relatives were used to relieve a range of diseases including cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery; to treat nosebleeds, ulcers and haemorrhoids and to staunch bleeding wounds. (We strongly advise against eating or using as medicines any plants without first obtaining qualified professional advice.)

Etymology

Geranium, the genus name, comes from the Greek noun geranos, meaning Crane (birds of the group of species known as the Gruidae). It is a reference to the beak-like fruit (seed capsule) which is reminiscent of the long beak of a Crane. The specific epithet pratense means of the meadow.

Similar Species

Bloody Cranesbill Geranium sanguineum produces bright red flowers otherwise similar to those of Meadow Cranesbill.

Wood Cranesbill Geranium sylvaticum is a northern species with smaller mauve flowers.

The pictures of Meadow Cranesbill shown on this page were taken in West Wales during July.


Volume 1

We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O'Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here...

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