What Is Erodium?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 24 February 2020
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Erodium is a genus of plant that is native to Eurasia and was introduced to North America from Europe by early settlers. There are about 60 different species in the Erodium genus, which is in the geranium family. In North America, these plants are often called heron-bill or filaree. The plant has some mild medicinal properties and has been used as a traditional remedy in both Europe and North America. It is also edible and has antioxidant qualities that are considered healthful.

The most commonly found species of Erodium is Erodium cicutarium, which is known as red-stem filaree or common heron’s bill. These plants are widespread throughout Europe and North America. In the United States, Erodium, a non-native plant, is considered a weed. It is found in a wide variety of habitats below 7,000 feet, especially in deserts. In North America, it prefers climates, such as the American Southwest, that are warmer and more similar to that of its Mediterranean origins.

Erodium is a creeping plant that spreads out over the ground and grows to a height of approximately 1 foot (0.3 m). The plant’s fern-like leaves remain close to the ground, while the stalks that contain the flowers and, later, the sword-shaped fruits, extend above them. The fruits form a spiral shape as they grow, which helps them dig into the soil to grow a new plant. The plants are hardy and often one of the first to flower in the spring.


When young, the entire Erodium plant can be eaten by humans as well as livestock. It tastes similar to parsley, and the leaves can be eaten raw during the time before the plant flowers. The roots are sweet and can be chewed like gum. As it gets older, the plant does not become toxic, but it is not palatable either.

There are a number of medicinal uses for Erodium cicutarium. It can control minor internal bleeding and has traditionally been given to women who have just given birth. The extract from the flowers of Erodium are also believed to have a calming effect and can be put into a liquid suspension. Erodium can also help decrease inflammation in the joints. It can be eaten, made into a tea, or formed into a compress that is placed on the affected area. It is not potent, however, and a large amount is necessary in order for a person to feel its effects.


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