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Woolly Geranium – Geranium erianthum

Woolly Geranium

Geranium erianthum

Common Names:

Woolly geranium
Cranesbill
Woolly geranium
Northern geranium

Synonyms

Geranium pratense L. var. erianthum

Genus: Geranium
Family: Geraniaceae
Order: Geraniaceae
full classification

Duration

Perennial

Uses

For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

The leaves are edible, raw or cooked, and the flowers are edible raw, but not considered good to taste. Woolly geranium was used by the Aleut and Dena’ina as a treatment for sore throat, making tea to gargle from the leaves.

Identification

The woolly geranium is a tall perennial herb that grows from a horizontal rootstock or rhizome 5-10 mm in diameter. The stem is erect and 10-90 cm (4-36 in) tall. Leaves are large, alternate, slightly hairy, and deeply divided and toothed, somewhat resembling a maple leaf. The flowers are blue to violet or lavender with 5 petals about 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter. The petals have dark, radial stripes and a deep purple stamen. Flowers may be singular or in a cluster of 2-3 (possibly up to 5). It also has smaller, bristly sepals. The seed capsules are thin, pointed, hairy carpels that look somewhat like the bill of a crane (hence a common name “cranesbill”) that split open suddenly, expelling the seeds.

Distribution and Habitat

In North America, Geranium erianthum is found in Alaska, the Yukon, British Columbia, and Alberta. It is also found in Asia in Japan, China, and eastern Siberia.

Woolly geranium is often found in meadows in many elevations, forests, and scrub, preferring moist soils.

Full Classification

RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (Plants)
SubkingdomTracheobionta (Vascular plants)
SuperdivisionSpermatophyta (Seed plants)
DivisionMagnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
ClassMagnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
SubclassRosidae
OrderGeraniales
FamilyGeraniaceae (Geranium family)
GenusGeranium L. (geranium)
SpeciesGeranium erianthum DC. (woolly geranium)

References and Further Reading

Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg. 12

Geranium erianthum  DC. Taxonomic Serial No.: 502757, ITIS Database

Geranium erianthum DC. woolly geranium, USDA Database

Geranium erianthum, Scientific Description from efloras.org (Flora of China)

Woolly geranium – Geranium erianthum, Wildflowers of the National Forests in Alaska – USDA, pg. 10

Geranium erianthum DC., E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Geranium erianthum, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

All online sources accessed October 2020 unless otherwise noted

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