GERANIUM FAMILY - Geraniaceae: Herb Robert; Red Robin; Red Shanks; Dragon's Blood
Flowers--Purplish rose, about 1/2 in. across, borne chiefly in pairs on slender peduncles. Five sepals and petals; stamens 10; pistil with 5 styles. Stem: Weak, slender, much branched, forked, and spreading, slightly hairy, 6 to 18 in. high. Leaves: Strongly scented, opposite, thin, of 3 divisions, much subdivided and cleft. Fruit: Capsular, elastic, the beak 1 in. long, awn-pointed.
Preferred Habitat--Rocky, moist woods and shady roadsides.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Pennsylvania, and westward to Missouri.
Who was the Robert for whom this his "holy herb" was named? Many suppose that he was St. Robert, a Benedictine monk, to whom the twenty-ninth of April--the day the plant comes into flower in Europe--is dedicated. Others assert that Robert Duke of Normandy, for whom the "Ortus Sanitatis," a standard medical guide for some hundred of years, was written, is the man honored; and since there is now no way of deciding the mooted question, we may take our choice.
Only when the stems are young are they green; later the plant well earns the name of Red Shanks, and when its leaves show crimson stains, of Dragon's Blood.
At any time the herb gives forth a disagreeable odor, but especially when its leaves and stem have been crushed until they emit a resinous secretion once an alleged cure for the plague.