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What Is a Wild Geranium?

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  • Written By: Jerry Morrison
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Wild geranium, Geranium maculatum, is a perennial wildflower native to the eastern woodlands and meadows of North America. At maturity, the plant stands up to 24 inches (61 cm) in height, growing in loose clusters of flowering stems and five-lobed leaves. The blooms of the wild geranium are 1-1.5 inches (about 2-4 cm) in diameter and vary in color from light pink to dark purple. Other names for the plant are wood geranium, or spotted geranium.

Clusters of wild geranium grow directly from its rootstock. Multiple stems covered in fine hair rise from the base. The gray-green leaves of the plant are 4-5 inches (about 10-13 cm) wide consisting of five to seven serrated lobes radiating from its point of attachment. Near the ground, leafstalks may be up to 12 inches (30.5 cm) in length becoming shorter nearer the top. The leafstalks, or petioles, as well as the leaves are covered in a fine, soft hair.

The flowering stems are generally erect and terminate in a flat-topped cluster of up to five blooms. The wild geranium will typically be in bloom from four to six weeks during the spring or early summer months. The flowers have five rounded petals, ten yellow stamens and a single pistil. Coloration of the petals usually ranges from a light pink to lavender, though rarely occurring white blooms have been noted. The pistil will grow into an elongated seedpod three to four weeks after the blooming period.

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This herbaceous perennial prefers partial shade, but can tolerate direct sunlight. A rich, loamy, slightly acidic soil with plenty of organic matter suits the wild geranium best. Its water requirements are moderate, and the plant thrives in moist to slightly dry woodlands, meadows and ravines. Drought conditions can cause the plant to become dormant.

Wild geranium is a popular choice for ornamental use in wild gardens, as shaded trim, and on woodland slopes. An attractive display requires little or no maintenance. The plant can be grown either from seed or root division. Seeds can be distributed in the late fall or early spring with no cold treatment. It should be noted that the plant tends to attract some species of deer, which might damage a landscaping scheme or garden.

The rhizomes, or underground stems of the wild geranium, are very high in tannin and were used by early settlers in tanning hides. Folk and herbal medicine has found many uses for the plant. A tea made from the leaves was used to treat conditions including diarrhea and gum disease. Powdered root has been used as an astringent and coagulant.

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