Geranium robertianum, The Herb Robert

Herb Robert flower (Geranium robertianum) Herb Robert flower (Geranium robertianum)   Herb Robert flower (Geranium robertianum)   Herb Robert flower (Geranium robertianum)Officially the flowering season is May to October and the flowers are certainly much more abundant then but this is one of those flowers that is so common that I can find it in any month of the year. I took this next photograph (today) in December.

Herb Robert flower (Geranium robertianum)It is a woodland flower and is said to be an ancient woodland indicator species but it seems to grow everywhere, it grows happily in hedgerows and I have yet to see a garden without Herb Robert growing in it somewhere. To many people it is an annoying weed but in the wild it is a valuable wildlife flower.

Common Carder on Herb Robert flower In some parts of North America it is known as Stinky Bob. This is because the leaves have a pungent odour. I have heard this variously described as Mousy, like a Fox or burning rubber. The smell acts as a natural insect repellent and rubbing the leaves on yourself is said to repel Mosquitoes.

Gardeners take note, Stinky Bob is not troubled by insect pests and allowing it into your garden might keep pests away from your more vulnerable plants too.

Herb Robert Leaf (Geranium robertianum)The stem and leaves often have a red cast to them. I do not often see them as red as in this next pictures but it does give a good idea of shape.

Herb Robert Leaf (Geranium robertianum)

Herb Robert Flower (Geranium robertianum)Herb Robert is a Crane’s-bill Geranium.

There are 422 different species in the genus Geranium and they are called Crane’s-bills to differentiate them from the genus Pelargonium because Pelargoniums are commonly known as Geraniums. Does that make sense?

Many of the Crane’s-bills have seed pods shaped like the bill of a Crane.

Herb Robert seed pods (Geranium robertianum)These seed pods are actually catapults designed to hurl the seeds away from the parent plant and they can travel as far as twenty feet.

The seeds are in the red casing at the base of the pod. That casing is called the calyx and is formed by the sepals of the flower. In this next picture I have peeled the calyx back to expose the seeds.

Herb Robert seed pods (Geranium robertianum)There are five seeds at the base of the pod, each attached to a spring which runs almost to the tip of the “bill.” When the seeds are ready to release the spring will curl outward from the base with enough force to detach itself from the tip off the pod and the seed will be distributed.

Herb Robert seed pods (Geranium robertianum)This next picture demonstrates a “Fail,” The seeds have not left the pod, possibly due to Spider web interference. It does however show the seeds and the springs sprung.

Herb Robert seed pods (Geranium robertianum)Well that is how Herb Robert’s crane’s-bill works. Others work in different ways. In many species the seed sits in a cup at the base of the pod and when the spring fires only the seed is thrown, the spring and cup remain attached to the pod.

Crane’s-bill geraniums have five petals.

Herb Robert flower (Geranium robertianum)They have five styles (the pink star in the middle is the female parts) and ten stamens, five pairs (The  purple, white and yellow, fluffy bits arranged around the “star” are the male parts)

Herb Robert styles and stamens (Geranium robertianum)When the flower first opens the stamens are held very close to the styles.At the tip of each stamen is an anther, this is the part that produces pollen.

Herb Robert flowers (Geranium robertianum)The pollen of Herb Robert is golden yellow.

Herb Robert pollen (Geranium robertianum)Herb Robert is native to the UK, Ireland and Western Europe.

Herb Robert flower (Geranium robertianum) Herb Robert seed pods (Geranium robertianum)   Herb Robert flower bud (Geranium robertianum)   Herb Robert flower (Geranium robertianum)Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Geraniales

Family: Geraniaceae

Genus: Geranium

Species: Geranium robertianum


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