Gerdnium, a crane, from the long beak of the fruiting capsule.
Perennial. Open woods and fields. Newfoundland to Manitoba, south to Georgia, Alabama, and Kansas. Abundant in northern Ohio. April-July.
Somewhat woody, with astringent juices, used medicinally.
Erect, hairy, usually forking above, one to two feet high.
Basal leaves with long petioles, about five-parted, the wedge-shaped divisions lobed and variously toothed and cleft; stem-leaves two, similar to the basal ones, both hairy, and more or less mottled with paler green.
Pale rose-purple, rather large, an inch or more across.
Sepals five, ovate-lanceolate, somewhat hairy.
Petals five, rose-purple, distinctly veined, obovate, with a small dense tuft of hairs on the inside of the claw.
Ten stamens in two sets, which mature at different times, all inserted with the petals.
Ovary five-lobed, five-celled, placed around the base of an elongated axis; five styles cohering with the axis, free at the summit.
Five carpels, dry, slender, long-tailed by the persistent style divisions and separating from the axis by the curling back of the style from the base, which ejects the seeds some distance from the plant.
Pollinated by bees and butterflies. Nectar-bearing. Stamens mature before the stigmas.
"Wildwood Geraniums All in their best, Languidly leaning
In purple gauze dressed."
- Clara Smith.
The Wild Geranium is really a sturdy plant, but the wide-spread, five-petalled blossom is delicate both in texture and appearance. The petals open an exquisite rose-purple; the ten stamens reclining upon their breast await the summons of life; in the centre the style stands as a thick column. As soon as the corolla is fully opened five stamens raise themselves around the style, and one after another the anthers open and pour out their pollen. After these the other five arise, pour out their pollen, and then, the anthers' service being ended, they wither and pass away. The insect visitors of this period eat nectar and carry away pollen.
In the meantime the petals continue their honey call to the bees and the pistil awakens. The central column opens its five arms and the stigmas stand out like rays, ready to brush off and retain upon their sticky surface any pollen a nectar-seeking bee may have gathered upon her hairy coat. The life of the flower is usually two or three days; the first day the insects get pollen, which they carry to older blossoms; the second day, seeking nectar, they bring to the receptive stigmas the pollen they have brushed from a younger flower. If the weather is warm and sunny this process may be accomplished in less than two days; if the weather is cold and the day gloomy the life of the blossom is prolonged. It is clear that the blossom has passed beyond the power of self-fertilization and awaits the insect guests as long as it can.
The mechanism by which the slender capsule distributes its seeds is most interesting. It is this capsule that gives the common name to the plant, since it bears a superficial resemblance to a crane's head with its long bill. This resemblance was seen by Dioscorides nearly two thousand years ago, and it is to him we are indebted for the suggestion. This capsule belongs to the class we call explosive fruits, those that throw their seeds some distance from the parent plant. It is worth while to notice how this is done by our wild-wood Geranium. A central axis grows up from the stalk through the styles, the capsule made up of five parts grows out with it. When the seeds are ripe and all is ready, suddenly the parts of the capsule give way at the base and coil outward with force, ejecting their seeds. All Wild Geraniums scatter their seeds in this way. If one wishes to see this process go on at leisure, gather a stem with ripe fruit early in the morning, place it in a vase in the sun. It will soon become dry, and eventually the fruit will snap and crack, and as the carpels curl up the seeds will fly out.
Wild Geranium. Geranium maculatum
False Solomon's-Seal. Vagnera racemosa
Smooth Solomon's-Seal. Polygonatum commutation, very similar to Polygonatum biflorum but blooming later