Monday, December 31, 2012

Geraniums, Geraniums, Geraniums, and More Geraniums!

              One of my favorite flowers that blooms in Wildwood 
               Park is the Wild Geranium, (Geranium maculatum).
                I begin looking for it in late spring. It has flowers that 
            measure about one to one and a half inches across 
          so they are very easily seen along the bike path.

                                     The plant grows from one to two feet tall and has distinctive
                                 leaves with three to five lobes and deep clefts. It is a perennial that
blooms in spring and early summer. Please remember that fact!
                                     You may read more about this plant on the Wildwood website:

   I thought that this was the only geranium in our park. 
However, one day as I explored the park
with my camera, a small flower caught my eye.

And the small leaves made me take a closer look.
They looked very much like geranium leaves
only they were miniature!

A close up view from my camera makes anything look huge,
but trust me - they were very much smaller 
than any geranium leaves that I had seen before.

With the help of Dr. Gary Coté, Professor of Biology at
Radford University and Webmaster of the Wildwood 
website, I learned that I had found Carolina Cranesbill,
(Geranium carolinianum). The carolinianum part of
its name probably means that the species was first 
discovered in one of the Carolinas. Keep reading, 
and I will explain about the cranesbill part of the 
name soon. That made two species of geraniums in Wildwood.

A couple of weeks later, while wandering with my camera,
a small, bright pink flower caught my eye.

The leaves looked a bit like geranium leaves, but not
so deeply lobed.

But the flowers were so tiny - less than half an inch.
It almost looked as if there were ten petals, but closer
inspection showed that each of the five petals had a 
rather deep cleft.

Again I consulted my friend, Gary Coté. After some
searching, he told me that I had found Dove's-foot  
Geranium, (Geranium molle)
Now we had three geranium species in Wildwood.

Read more about this plant:

The month of May passed, and I continued to hunt.
In mid-June, I spotted a tiny, bright pink flower.

This one had deeply lobed leaves that were 
delicately spindly with sort of a geranium shape. 
"Am I beginning to image that all new leaves remind me 
of geraniums?", I wondered.

And yes, I again sent photos to my friend Gary.
And yes, we had another species of geranium.
This one was number four, Longstalk Cranesbill,
 (G. columbinum). The Latin word columbinus means 
"pigeon" and the leaves do resemble pigeon's feet.

Isn't it lovely with dew drops on it!

 A few days later, I again looked down to see a
small pale pink flower. Its leaves had that "G" look!

The flowers were tiny as all the others had been.
Of course, I snapped a few pictures.

 Yes, I had another geranium - Small-flowered Cranesbill,
(G. pusillum). Pusillum means "tiny" or "small".
 How many species in all? Five!!!!!

I'm sure that you have been patiently waiting to know why
some of these plants are named Geranium and why some are 
named Cranesbill. Take a look at the fruit that these flowers
produce - sort of looks like a crane's bill or beak! The name
Geranium comes from the Greek word for crane, geranos.
The four new species are all annual plants, and perhaps
their seeds hitched rides on mowing machines that were
used to cut the grass in the park.


The summer months passed quickly as I continued to enjoy
hunting with my camera. As I walked Wildwood Drive (that's
the part of the bike paths that goes to the Main Street entrance
of Wildwood) I saw a purplish-pink flower reaching up to the
sun from beneath a privet hedge. "That looks like a Wild Geranium,
but it's too late in summer for that." Its flower was even a big
one, more that an inch across!

 I checked the leaves - yes, those sure looked like G. maculatum!

I n spite of the fact that it was almost the last day of August,
the 29th in fact, it sure was a geranium. Dr. Coté was stumped.
We could find no other geranium species that matched its
description. Perhaps it was just a second flowering of our original
Wild Geranium or perhaps we have a sixth and new species.
Ahh, the mysteries and puzzles of nature!

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