If you’ve walked along a wooded trail in the last week or so, chances are you saw some delicate lavender flowers swaying on a long stem poking through the brush. This is the perennial wild geranium.
The five petals range in color from deep purple in the beginning to pale pink as the blossom fades. A prominent network of veins in the petals direct pollinators to the nectar in the blossom’s center. The stems and buds are covered in peach fuzz hairs.
You are probably familiar with the annual geraniums peppering our local nurseries in festival shades of fuchsia, red and white. The wild geranium is also widely available at nurseries.
It grows from a rhizome that spreads slowly to make loose colonies and makes a terrific ground cover. Unlike its annual cousin, the wild geranium is a valuable food source for wildlife. A wide variety of bees come for the geranium’s pollen and nectar. Flies and butterflies are attracted to the flowers. Beetles, bugs and caterpillars feed on the leaves. Chipmunks eat the seeds and deer forage on the foliage. Used by the Egyptians for promoting beautiful and radiant skin, geranium oil is still a popular natural remedy for acne, sore throats, anxiety, depression and insomnia. That’s a lot of fodder for a 2’ plant!
The geranium’s Greek name, geranós, means crane and refers to the shape of the fruit before it releases its seed. The fruit contains five spring-loaded sections forming a long pointy projectile which resembles a crane’s bill. When ripe, the projectile draws back and then catapults the seeds away, much like a baseball player would release a ball.
The wild geranium is in prolific bloom this week along the Leatherstocking trail and throughout our woodlands. Please send along your pictures and impressions of any you find. Enjoy!