By JOYCE ARLEEN CORSON
Guest Columnist & Master Gardener
Wild geranium is a woodland perennial herb. The plants emerge from stout, shallow, rhizomes bearing knobby leaf scars and thin roots. The tiny roots are subject to frost bite so best to keep covered with leaves until all danger of frost is gone. Without adequate moisture the stems may die to the ground, so be sure they get plenty of water.
The pointed dark green leaves are rounded at the bottom with overall leaf more or less in the shape of a polygon. They may reach 5 to 6 inches in width. The five petal flower, 1/2 to 2 inches, varies in many shades, and intensity from lavender to pink and may reach 12 inches in height.Geranium maculatum was named by Linnaeus in his monumental book “Species Plantarum,” published in 1753. The Greek word geranos, crane dance, is in reference to the long, fruiting styles common throughout the family. In English common names are cranesbill and storksbill. The head of a pod holds five seeds.
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.
Propagation can be accomplished by division and by seed. Divide rhizomes in spring or fall by severing its segments and planting the pieces about 1 inch deep. Diligence will be required to collect mature seeds before they are dispersed. Seeds may be sown outdoors as soon as they are collected or in seed flats. 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 or miner bee, a dedicated pollinator. With adequate moisture through out the season the tiny roots may take hold and make a new plant.If this plant interests you, it is best to buy it from an accredited nursery that deals in native plants and seeds. Taking them from the wild is not recommended.
Wild geranium is widespread in eastern North America from Maine to Minnesota and in eastern south from Georgia and Arkansas. It favors upland forests and well-drained portions of flood plain forests.
Conservation status of wild geranium is secure. Nevertheless, like so much of the natural world, individual populations are subject to the habitat destruction characteristic of the ever expanding human footprint.
A casual drive around Syracuse’s Lake Papakeechie Lake along North Koher Road in mid April May, may bring you up close and personal with this beautiful flower. The snowplow may undoubtedly have helped them form colonies by spreading seeds along the by way.