Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Wild geranium

with 33 comments

Wild Geranium Flower 9922

Here’s a little wildflower that’s never appeared in these pages before: Geranium carolinianum, known as wild geranium. When I say it’s a little wildflower I’m not kidding, because flowers of this species are only about a quarter of an inch across (roughly 6 mm for you of the metric persuasion). Although this geranium flower was pristine, if you look closely you’ll see that something had chomped a few bits out of the plant’s greenery.

This picture comes from Bartholomew Park along E. 51st St. on March 27th. That was the same outing that produced the pictures of the huisache and redbud trees that were the subjects of the last three posts.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2015 at 5:38 AM

33 Responses

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  1. The chomper was obviously being a responsible eater and tackling the greens before indulging in the dessert. Either that or the flower is not as sweet as it looks.


    April 23, 2015 at 6:06 AM

    • Yesterday afternoon, with a different species of wildflower, I saw the opposite situation: the flowers had been munched rather than the greenery. I wonder if there’s anything alive out there that doesn’t ultimately serve as food for something else.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 23, 2015 at 7:02 AM

  2. We have a wild geranium hereabouts too. Similar but different as ours (Geranium maculatum) grows to 18-24″ or more. @2 months to go before we see them.
    I tried to copy and paste the USDA link but my phone wouldn’t cooperate.

    Steve Gingold

    April 23, 2015 at 6:34 AM

    • I’m sorry to hear yours are still about two months away; ours were already out last month, as you’ve seen from this post. I searched your blog for “geranium” but got no hits; perhaps this will be the spring for you to photograph your wild geranium (or show a picture if you got a good one in years past).

      I looked up Geranium maculatum and found that it reaches down to a couple of states that border Texas but doesn’t make it here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 23, 2015 at 7:12 AM

  3. Six mm is barely larger than a BB. It would be easy to miss.

    Jim in IA

    April 23, 2015 at 6:57 AM

    • Easy enough for people to miss, at any rate. Yesterday I was looking at some poison ivy flowers, which are even tinier, but I found plenty of small insects attracted to them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 23, 2015 at 7:14 AM

  4. We have a wild geranium in Scandinavia too, Geranium sylvaticum, and a lot of them. They are usually purple, but they are sometimes white:



    April 23, 2015 at 7:14 AM

    • Based on your appealing photograph, it seems your wild geraniums are denser and more colorful than our rather inconspicuous ones.

      I noticed the name you have for them, skogstorkenebb. With some help from Google Translate I make that out to be woods + stork + bill, with skog equivalent to the sylvaticum of the scientific name and nebb a cognate of English nib.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 23, 2015 at 7:26 AM

  5. We have Geranium maculatum here, and also another I only know as “Herb albert”. It is similar to the one you show here~ a real cutie.
    I do wish gardeners would stop calling Pelargoniums geraniums…


    April 23, 2015 at 8:18 AM

  6. Gorgeous picture for such a tiny flower! I love the colors – very delicate. Love the comments also and went to check a few of the links for myself.



    April 23, 2015 at 10:03 AM

    • A macro lens reveals many things we couldn’t see with our unaided eyes, and it’s the lens I use the most.

      As you indicated, comments add a lot to these subjects, often in the form of links to informative articles. Hooray for the Internet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 23, 2015 at 2:52 PM

  7. http://www.herbsarespecial.com.au/free-herb-information/herb-robert.html
    Free herb information – HERB ROBERT – from Isabell Shipards herb book – How can I use HERBS in my daily life? My tiny geranium is rampant in my garden, I plant it where ever I have my beehives. It is called called Robertanum here. It sounds very like what some of you are describing, but it has a flower which is quite rosy pink, not paler. It is about 4mm across. It is extremely useful and very popular with bumbles, solitary and honey bees and quite a few types of butterflies. I often cut it up small and sprinkle it through the salad leaves or on museli. Also through the meat of my border collies.


    April 23, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    • Here’s how the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center describes Geranium robertianum: “This European introduction, naturalized in North America, is an especially attractive member of the geranium family, but the leaves have an unpleasant odor when crushed. It is variously reported to have been named for Saint Robert of Molesme, whose festival date in April occurs at about the time the flowers bloom in Europe, or for Robert Goodfellow, who is known as Robin Hood.”

      If you cut up that herb and sprinkle it on your food, you must not find the odor as unpleasant as the writer of the above description.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 23, 2015 at 3:02 PM

  8. Such a wonderful image to carry through today…A very special gift.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    April 23, 2015 at 12:20 PM

  9. […] Schwartzman posted a species of Wild Geranium this morning that is a bit different than what we see here.  His, Geranium carolinianum, is a very […]

  10. Lovely. I have always thought that pelargoniums were geraniums. Learnt the difference a few weeks ago.

    Raewyn's Photos

    April 24, 2015 at 2:50 AM

  11. Superbe photo!!

  12. It was my English gardener friend Friko, who provided the photo for my little geranium poem, who first alerted me to the difference between pelargoniums and geraniums. I fear the pelargoniums always will be geraniums to me, as they were to my mother and grandmother. Still, raising the topic again made me curious, and I searched the site of my favorite local nursery. There wasn’t a mention of pelargoniums using their search function, but they were mentioned in the section dealing with geraniums.

    Here’s a snippet from the site:

    “What do apples, apricots, strawberries and citronella have in common…? These are all but a sample of the assortment of fragrances that scented geraniums can produce. The name of this perennial is a slight misnomer as it is not truly a geranium, but rather a member of the Pelargonium family. The common name is storksbill.

    A native of south Africa, it performs exceptionally well in our climate. Scented geraniums tolerate dry soil, drought, heat and poor soil… The plants all produce five petaled flowers, but the foliage is the primary reason for cultivation. The fragrant oils are secreted when the plants are brushed against [and] can be used in soaps, scent sachets, salts, preserves, sugars, and candies.”


    April 26, 2015 at 9:33 AM

    • I just saw your comment at Steve Gingold’s site about scented geraniums. If I’d gotten here before you got there, you would have known. 🙂


      April 26, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    • I’ll have to take issue with that site’s mention of a “Pelargonium family” because the Wikipedia article at


      explains that Pelargonium is a genus within Geraniaceae, the geranium family. Of course membership in the same botanical family accounts for some common characteristics, notably the long and slender seed capsules that remind people of the bill of a crane or stork. At the same time, the fact that Pelargonium is a different genus from Geranium may account for the fact that Pelargoniums have scents; the wild geranium in Austin doesn’t have a scent, and I don’t know if any other true Geranium species do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 26, 2015 at 10:33 AM

      • Hmmmm.. Now that I read what I quoted more closely, it is confusing. By the time I read a few more entries, it was even more confusing. The terms are being reversed in many places. What agreement I’ve found is in regard to the scents: it’s the leaves rather than the flowers that are fragrant.


        April 26, 2015 at 10:46 AM

        • That’s interesting about the leaves. The next time I come across a wild geranium in Austin I’ll check to see if its leaves have an aroma.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 26, 2015 at 11:27 AM

      • I started with the Ladybird Johnson center and landed in Australia, on this very informative page published by the Geelong Botanic Gardens. I think I’ve got it straightened out in my head, now.


        April 26, 2015 at 11:12 AM

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