Wild Geranium is a woodland perennial herb. Geranium maculatum is widespread in eastern North America from Maine to Minnesota and is widespread in eastern south to Georgia and Arkansas; it is uncommon to absent in the Atlantic or Gulf coastal plain regions of coastal states from Virginia to Mississippi. Wild Geranium favors upland forests and well-drained portions of flood plain forests.
Name and Relationships
Geranium maculatum was named by Linnaeus in his monumental Species Plantarum, published in 1753. Geranium has long served as the type genus of Geraniaceae. The genus and family name are derived from the Greek word geranos, crane, in reference to the elongate fruiting styles common throughout the family. English common names like Cranesbill and Storksbill for relatives of Wild Geranium similarly refer to their elongate fruiting-stage styles. The species portion of the binomial, maculatum, means spotted, perhaps a reference to slight irregularities in petal pigmentation sometimes observed in this species.
In the Garden
Wild Geranium is an excellent garden plant, fitting well with mixed perennials in light shade or naturalistic woodland settings. It is tolerant of a wide variety of soil types and soil pH. Cultivated plants benefit from supplemental water in dry spells, without which aerial stems may senesce and die to the ground. Propagation can be accomplished by division and by seed. Divide rhizomes in spring or fall by severing its segments and planting the pieces about one inch deep. Diligence will be required to collect mature seeds before they are ballistically dispersed. Seeds may be sown outdoors as soon as they are collected or in seed flats for controlled cold stratification. Germination may be erratic; some seeds may not sprout until after a second winter or cold treatment. Wild Geranium flowers are visited by diverse native bees, including Adrena distans, a dedicated, specialist, pollinator.
Native Americans used Wild Geranium to treat a variety of disorders and commercial preparations of the plant, usually derived from roots and/or rhizomes, are available today as herbal or alternative medicines. Medicinal qualities can be attributed to presence of gallic acid and tannins that provide astringent and bacteriostatic effects. Root and rhizome preparations have been taken internally to treat gastrointestinal distress, applied topically as an eyewash, or as an ingredient in compression dressings for wounds. (SDGS does not endorse the use of Wild Geranium for medicinal purposes.)
Posts are made by Brenda Archer or Sharon Pearce - both are past Presidents of the San Diego Geranium Society!