Stork's-bills & Crane's-bills

Common Herb-Robert Musk Stork's-bill Common Stork's-bill Common Stork's-bill

What are they?

Low-growing, perennial herbs in the family Geraniaceae. Stork's-bills resemble crane's-bills in their long, slender seed capsules, but generally differ in their rosettes of basal leaves which are usually pinnate and in their flower petals which tend to be rounded at the tip and not notched. A number of species have occurred in the UK as rare introductions with various materials (most notably wool bi-products) but these mostly no longer occur in our region. Some of the crane's-bills are included on this page as they have relatively narrow, rounded petals. However, they differ from stork's-bills in having palmate or ternate leaves that may further be deeply lobed almost to the veins.

Where are they found?

Stork's-bills are plants of open areas, generally either in short turf or in disturbed ground along field margins, dunes, gardens and waste places. The crane's-bills on this page tend to be species of shady places, either in woodland or under trees in parks, churchyards and similar places.

Identification

The species in our area are best told from each other by careful attention to details of the leaves. Identifying the introduced species can be very difficult and is mostly based on details of the structure of the seed! Other species of crane's-bills are generaly much larger and broader-petalled than the species included on this page, or have petals that are obviously notched. Note: When growing in dry, impoverished soil or on walls or beaches, these plants can often become stunted and the leaves become bright red in colour.



Common Stork's-bill      Erodium cicutarium

Native. Common and widespread in open and disturbed ground in areas of light, sandy soils. Flowers June to August. Leaves form flat rosettes on open ground but may be more upright among taller vegetation and have a 'carrot top' look. Leaflets deeply toothed/lobed and usually cut more than half way to their midrib.

Common Stork's-bill Common Stork's-bill Common Stork's-bill Common Stork's-bill
Flower
Flower
Leaf
Seed capsules


Musk Stork's-bill      Erodium moschatum

Considered possibly native but more likely an early introduction in coastal areas. In more recent times, this species has been spreading rapidly as a weed of disturbed ground in urban areas, being particularly frequent on mown, grassy verges along main thoroughfares. Flowers April to July. Leaves form flat rosettes on open ground but may be more upright among taller vegetation and have a 'carrot top' look. Leaflets more shallowly toothed/lobed than those of Common Stork's-bill and cut no more than half way to their midrib.

Musk Stork's-bill Musk Stork's-bill Musk Stork's-bill Musk Stork's-bill
Flower
Leaves
Leaf
Seed capsules


Common Herb-Robert      Geranium robertianum

Common and widespread in all kinds of shady places, but also as a low-growing plant of shingle beaches and frequently on walls. Flowers May to September. Low-growing to no more than 40cm. Leaves are divided into three main sections (ternate), each section further deeply divided almost to the veins. Flowers usually pink but sometimes white, followed by typical elongated fruiting capsules that resemble a crane's bill.

Common Herb-Robert Common Herb-Robert Common Herb-Robert Common Herb-Robert
Habit
Flower
Leaf
Seed capsules


Shining Crane's-bill      Geranium lucidum

Scattered throughout and can be locally common in churchyards and along shady lanes and byways. Also frequently on walls. Flowers May to August. Low-growing to no more than 30cm. Leaves palmately-lobed like many crane's-bills but differing in being glossy and almost hairless. When viewed side on, the flowers have distinctively ribbed calyxes.

Shining Crane's-bill Shining Crane's-bill Shining Crane's-bill Shining Crane's-bill
Habit
Flower
Ribbed calyx
Leaf


Long-stalked Crane's-bill      Geranium columbinum

A scarce species found on old, undisturbed grassland sites, usually on chalky soils. Flowers June to July. A low, sprawling plant wth deeply dissected leaves. Flowers held on long stalks; stems and leaves clothed with stiff, whitish hairs. Petals more or less on-notched, bright pink.

Long-stalked Crane's-bill Long-stalked Crane's-bill Long-stalked Crane's-bill Long-stalked Crane's-bill
Habit
Flower
Leaf
Seed capsule