ID Guide to British wild geraniums
There are several types of hardy geranium native to the UK. All of them are attractive little flowers with ferny leaves in their own right, and provide nectar for many insects throughout the spring, summer and autumn.
Crane’s-bills (Geranium species)
Geranium flowers have five very similar petals, and are thus radially symmetrical and have ten fertile stamens. Species in the genus Geranium have a distinctive mechanism for seed dispersal. This consists of a beak-like column which springs open when ripe and casts the seeds some distance. The fruit capsule consists of five cells, each containing one seed, joined to a column produced from the centre of the old flower. The common name ‘cranesbill’ comes from the shape of the unsprung column, which in some species is long and looks like the bill of a crane. However, many species in this genus do not have a long beak-like column.
Stork’s-bills (Erodium species)
Thirty-seven species of Erodium are recorded in Britain including the four native species common stork’s-bill (E. cicutarium), sticky stork’s-bill (E. lebelii), sea stork’s-bill (E. maritimum) and musk stork’s-bill (E. moschatum The flowers of Erodium are similar to Geranium flowers but have only five fertile stamens.
A number of geranium species are cultivated for horticultural use and for pharmaceutical products.