Thursday, July 29, 2010

Herb Robert

The tiny flower of this plant, Geranium Robertianum, blooms reliably throughout the summer here and there at Thorne Swift Nature Preserve, where I first learned its name from Sally Stebbins. Since the name is that of my dear brother, Robert, who died too young, I haven't forgotten it. The name "geranium" derives from the Greek geranos, crane, because of the shape of the seedpod, like a crane's bill. Two pairs of these pods are visible in this photo, as is the ferny shape of the leaves. The flowers are small, five-petaled, and range through the pale pinks to white. It is a widespread plant, growing in Europe and Asia, and widely naturalized in the US. Formerly it was used in treating wounds, and there are now claims for it as a cancer fighter.
The article in Wikipedia deals with all the Roberts who might have provided the name for this plant, and the links at the end of the article add interesting facts and theories.
Although the plant can grow to a substantial size, I have only ever seen a small version, a few tiny flowers, dainty leaves, as in this photo taken at the nature preserve. However, in King County, Washington, it is classed as a noxious weed,  and seems to be able to eat up pastures or woodlands. The name "Stinky Bob" refers to the odor produced by several chemical constituents of this plant.
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