Geranium the name is derived from the greek word ‘geranos’ or crane it is a genus of many species of flowering annual, biennial, and perennial plants that are commonly known as the cranesbill they have erect stems, much branched from the base. Petioled leaves , reniform-orbicular in outline, deeply cleft into five to nine oblong, cuneate, lobed segments. It flowers in compact clusters, its petals pink, obcordate, equalling the awned sepals. Geranium’s are botanically known as geranium pelargonium, but the name geranium is so firmly and popularly associated with our favorite bedding plants that it would be absurd for me to write of them under the much less familiar name of pelargonium. The show and fancy pelargoniums that so strangely are known to some people as Lady and Martha Washingtons, I will treat under their proper name.
The geranium needs no introduction, for if there is a plant known universally by every one it is the geranium. Within thirty years an immense improvement has taken place, both in the habit of the plant and the grand form and color of the flower. The earliest double ones were a curiosity when first they came out, but they were so double that they were of little use, and now a form called semi-double has entirely displaced them. The semi-doubles have one advantage, the petals are not knocked off by a rain storm, and they have also a disadvantage. Some of the varieties, although excellent growers and remarkably free flowering, become unsightly by the inner florets losing color or decaying before the outside florets have opened.
The single varieties are still most useful for bedding. The ivy-leaved section has been improved as much as the zonals, having beautiful semi-double flowers, and now we have double flowers on the bronze and variegated type. Some of the variegated kinds, such as the useful Mountain of Snow, are as vigorous as the zonals, and so are the yellow and bronze varieties, but the tricolor type are less robust.
- Varieties of Geranium :
- Geranium Pratense :
Also called as Meadow Geranium is a perennial by a stout rootstock. pubescent with spreading or retrorse short hairs, erect, 1°-2 1/2° high. Basal leaves long-petioled, reni-form or orbicular-reniform in outline and decidedly pentagonal, mostly 4′-5′ wide, 5-7-parted, the divisions narrower, more attenuate and more finely cut than in geranium maculatum stem-leaves usually with narrower divisions and teeth than the basal leaves; peduncles elongated, glandular-pubescent like the pedicels which are very variable in length; flowers deep-purple, 1 1/4′-1 3/4′ broad; petals ciliate at the base; beak of the fruit 3/4′-1′ long; carpels minutely pubescent; seeds reticulate.
- Geranium Maculatum :
Commonly known as Wild Or Spotted Crane’s-Bill is a perennial by a thick rootstock, pubescent . with spreading or retrorse hairs, erect, simple, or branching above, 1°-2° high. Basal leaves long-petioled, nearly orbicular, broadly cordate or reniform, S’-6′ wide, deeply 3-5-parted, the divisions obovate, cuneate, variously toothed and cleft; stem-leaves 2. opposite, shorter-petioled, otherwise similar to the basal ones; peduncles 1-5, elongated, generally bearing a pair of leaves at the base of the umbellate inflorescence; ultimate pedicels l’-2′ long; flowers rose-purple, 1′ – 1 1/2′ broad; sepals awn-pointed; petals woolly at the base; beak of the fruit 1′-1 1/2′ long; carpels pubescent; seed reticulate.
- Geranium Robertianum :
It also known as Herb Robert, Red Robin, Red Shanks and Dragon’s Blood. Flowers are purplish rose, about 1/2 in. across, borne chiefly in pairs on slender peduncles. It has Five sepals and petals,10 stamens and pistil with 5 styles. Its stem is weak, slender, much branched, forked, and spreading, slightly hairy, 6 to 18 in. high. Strongly scented leaves, opposite, thin, of 3 divisions, much subdivided and cleft. It has and capsular, elastic fruit, and a beak 1″ long, awn-pointed.
Perferred Habitat – Rocky, moist woods and shady roadsides.
Flowering Season – May till October.
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. Flies, that never object to a noxious smell, constantly visit the flower, and have their tongues guided through passages between little ridge-like processes on each petal to the nectar secreted by the base of the filaments at the base of each sepal. To prevent self-fertilization, the five stigmas are folded close together when the flower opens, nor do they spread apart and become receptive until after the outer row of anthers, then the inner row, have shed their pollen. When the elastic carpels have ripened their seed, bang! go the little guns, scattering them far and wide.
- Scented Geranium or Rose Geranium :
Three species at least are in popular cultivation under this name are pelargonium graveolens, pelargonium quercifolium, and pelargonium capita-turn. The first of these is the one most frequently met with; it has long-stalked hairy leaves, which are palmately lobed or nearly partite, the segments themselves being also deeply cut; the flowers are small, pale pink or lilac, the two upper petals being each marked with a darker spot. It was introduced to England by Francis Masson in 1774, and specimens grown at Kew in 1778 are in the British Museum herbarium. Mr. Lowe says that it is used everywhere in gardens in Madeira for forming ornamental clipped hedges. In this island it forms a stiff bushy shrub, from one to three feet high. The familiar odor of the leaves is differently regarded by different persons; thus Dr. Harvey calls it “balsamic,” while Mr. Lowe characterizes it as a ” strong, disagreeable, though subaromatic scent.”Many varieties of this species are in cultivation in English gardens.
- Geranium Sibiricum : Commonly known as Siberian Crane’s-Bill is an annual, villous-pubescent, freely branched, decumbent or ascending, 1°-4 1/2° high. Leaves deeply 3-5-parted, 2′-2 1/2′ broad, nearly orbicular, or cordate-reniform, the divisions oval-lanceolate, cleft or toothed; peduncles slender, I-flowered, 2′-3′ long, 2-bracted near the middle; flowers nearly white, 3 “-4″ broad; sepals oval, awned; beak of the fruit canescent, 7″-9″ long, tipped with a short prolongation; lobes of the capsule puberulent or hairy, seed minutely reticulate.
- Geranium Columbinum : Also known as Long-Stalked Crane’s-Bill is an annual, slender, decumbent or prostrate, slightly hispid-pubescent with whitish appressed hairs. Leaves 1′-1 1/2′ in diameter, pedately deeply 5-9-divided into narrow, mostly linear variously cleft segments; petioles very slender, those of the lower and basal leaves often 5′-6′ long; peduncles also slender, longer than the upper leaves, 2-flowered; pedicels 1′-3′ long; flowers purple, about 4″ broad; sepals ovate, awn-pointed, enlarging in fruit; petals notched; capsule-lobes nearly glabrous, keeled, not rugose; beak 6″-10″ long, hispid; seeds deeply pitted.
- Geranium Rotundifolium : Commonly known as Round-Leaved Crane’s-Bill is an annual, often tufted, 6′-18′ high, much branched, softly pubescent with spreading white purple-tipped glandular hairs. Leaves reniform-orbicular, broader than long, 1 1/2′ wide, cleft about to the middle into 5-9 obtuse broad lobes, which are 3-5-toothed; petioles slender, those of the basal leaves elongated; flowers purple, 2″-3″ broad; sepals ovate, or oval, short-pointed, somewhat shorter than the entire obovate petals; ovary and capsule-lobes hairy, not wrinkled; beak pubescent, about 6″ long, pointed with a short awn; seeds reticulated.
- Geranium Carolinianum : This wild Geranium is very like the Herb Robert, and has the same dull pink flowers veined with deep rose. The Greek name of the plant means “a crane,” and the common name Crane’s-bill denotes the long grooved beak composed of five styles that cohere at the top. The calyx is formed of five pointed sepals, and the corolla of five indented petals. The whole plant is covered with fine gray hairs and has an extremely strong smell, caused by a resinous secretion. Its leaves are roundish in form and deeply cleft; the long stalks are brittle and quite red where exposed to the sunlight. Sometimes the flowers are white.
- Geranium Bicknellii Britton : Also known as Bicknell’s Crane’s-Bill is similar to the preceding species, but taller, the stems usually more slender, loosely pubescent. Leaves slender-petioled, somewhat angulate in outline, the segments oblong or linear-oblong, mostly narrower; peduncles slender, 2-flowered, the inflorescence loose; sepals lanceolate, awn-pointed; ovary-lobes pubescent; persistent filaments longer than the carpels; beak about 1′ long, long-pointed, its tip 2″-3″ long; seeds reticulated.
- Geranium Dissectum : Also known as Cut-Leaved Crane’s-Bill it is closely related to the two preceding species, but smaller in every way, more slender, the branches decumbent or ascending; leaves seldom more than 1 1/2′ wide deeply cleft into narrower segments; inflorescence loose; peduncles short, 2-flowered; flowers purple, about 3″ broad; sepals ovate, awned, equalling or slightly longer than the notched petals; capsule-lobes and beak pubescent; seeds ovoid or globose, deeply pitted.
- Geranium Pusillum : Also known as Small-Flowered Crane’s-Bill is an annual, widely branching, slender, weak, pubescent or villous, 4′-18′ long. Leaves petioled, reni-form-orbicular, 1/2′-1 1/2 wide, deeply divided into 7-9 oblong, or sometimes linear-oblong, entire or 3-toothed, cuneate lobes; peduncles short, 3″-°” long, 2-flowered; pedicels 3″-12″ long; sepals acute, awn-less; flowers pale-purple, 3″-s” broad; petals notched; capsule-lobes hairy, keeled, not wrinkled; beak about 5″ long, canescent; seed smooth; anther-bearing stamens commonly only 5, as in Erodium.
- Geranium Molle : Also known as Dove’s-Foot Crane’s-Bill it is resembling the preceding species, but more villous, the leaves nearly orbicular in outline and not as deeply cleft, generally only to just below the middle, into 7-11 obovate or cuneate lobes, which are 3-5-toothed at the apex; flowers dark-purple, 3″-5″ broad with obtusish sepals, not awned, capsule-lobes distinctly marked with transverse wrinkles, beak about 5″ long, sparingly pubescent. Seeds smooth or striate, not pitted, nor reticulate with 10 anther-bearing filaments.
- Geranium angulatum. – This species is a native of Europe, and has been cultivated since 1789. A perennial, of easy culture, eighteen inches high, with a profusion of pink flowers in June. The Geranium angulatum, from its numerous flowers, is highly ornamental. It may be appropriately planted among low shrubs, or strong herbaceous plants; and it will succeed in rather shady places, which renders it oftentimes a desirable plant. Divisions of the roots afford sufficient increase.
- Scarlet Geranium – Nothing can exceed the beauty and brilliance of a collection of Dwarf Scarlet Geraniums, either in beds or in pots; they enliven the garden or balcony all summer. If removed into a warm conservatory in November, and a little water given them until the middle of December, when they commence growing, they will flower from January until April. They are easily raised from cuttings, which, if started in February, will make good plants for summer planting.
The variety of Scarlet Geraniums, with silver-edged leaves, called the “Flower of the Day” is a magnificent but scarce bedding plant. There are many varieties of the Scarlet Geranium, Those denominated Tom Thumb are dwarfs, some of them very small in their growth, and vary in intensity of color, mode of growth and foliage.
- Geranium Lucia rosea – This is a sport from the Scarlet Geranium. It blooms freely and abundantly in the open ground. It is a very compact-growing plant, with short jointed stems, and good-sized leaves, of a soft and velvety character. The flower-stems are strong, and grow erect, so that the trusses of bloom are brought well above the foliage; the color of the flowers is a most delicate soft pink, or peach blossom, with a lovely white eye, – altogether a distinct color among Geraniums. It is a gem in the flower-garden, being not only distinct, but superlatively beautiful; cultivation the same as in other varieties.
- Geranium Uses:
- Geranium Oil : In commerce there appear two kinds of geranium oil, the African or French and the East Indian. The latter is also called oil of ginger grass, and is principally employed for adulterating rose oil. The African or French oil of geranium is obtained from the leaves of geranium odoratissimum by distillation with water, a color-less, sometimes greenish or brownish oil, with an agreeable rose-like odor, extensively employed instead of the true rose-oil. on account of its being much cheaper. While the oil of geranium is also used for adulterating the oil of rose, the former itself is very frequently adulterated with the oil of ginger grass. Oil of geranium is chiefly produced in the South of France and in Turkey, where the geranium plants are largely cultivated. The brownish oil of geranium is considered the best.