Endlessly Fascinating

Aren’t plants endlessly fascinating? Today in the nursery I noticed that the Pelargonium aridum had set a good crop of seed. A few had opened in the fascinating way that Pelargoniums and their close cousins in the genus Geranium do: each of the 3 carpels opening and reflexing upward on the central column of the fruit. This was not new to me for the Pelargoniums are known as storksbills and the Geraniums as heronsbills alluding to the shape of the fruit and I’ve seen them open in this manner over the eons. If you’ve been slow in weeding out our most common native cranesbill, Geranium carolinianum, you’ve experienced the explosive catapulting of the seeds. Today’s fascination was that each seed had a feather like appendage which was straight when first extracted from the fruit but quickly spiraled. I have to think that this feather like structure aids is dispersal like the pappus of a dandelion or so many other members of the Asteraceae.

Pelargonium aridum

Pelargonium aridum is a South African native which is winter growing and summer dormant. It survives here in the crevice garden with sharply drained soil (50% Stalite Permatil gravel). You’ll see in the photo that is has very finely dissected leaves. The flowers have narrow petals which are white or palest yellow.

If you are unfamiliar with Geranium carolinianum…..well now that I’ve had a half second to reflect on this, you can’t be unfamiliar with it. Because it’s one of the most common winter weeds. If you have gardened, you have seen it. You might just be unfamiliar with its scientific name, as I was until a few years ago; being one who has been slow to learn the scientific names of common weeds and one who assumes bad weeds must be of foreign origin. But alas Geranium carolinianum is a native annual; one which germinates in the fall, grows through the winter months, blooms in spring, and then dies by late spring after producing seeds. Knowing it is a native, perhaps we can tolerate it where it won’t impact more desirable plants. Its foliage is nearly indistinguishable from Geranium sanguineum though G. c. makes a single rosette and the flowers are tiny, probably about a quarter inch wide.

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