geranium

geranium

[ji-rey-nee-uhm]
geranium, common name for some members of the Geraniaceae, a family of herbs and small shrubs of temperate and subtropical regions. Their long, beak-shaped fruits give them the popular names crane's-bill (for species of the genus Geranium, the true geranium), heron's-bill (genus Erodium), and stork's-bill (genus Pelargonium). The American wild geranium, or wild crane's-bill, has rose-to-purple five-petaled flowers and handsome, deeply forked leaves; the woodland herb Robert is similar but smaller. Florists' geraniums are hybrid varieties of the S African genus Pelargonium in which the "petals" are actually highly modified stamens. Geraniums are cultivated not only as ornamentals but for the aromatic oils extracted from their foliage and flowers for use in flavorings and perfumes. Geraniums are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Geraniales, family Geraniaceae.

Hybrid geranium (Pelargonium × hortorum).

Any of the approximately 300 species of perennial herbaceous plants or shrubs that make up the genus Geranium (family Geraniaceae), native mostly to subtropical southern Africa. They are among the most popular bedding and greenhouse plants. The closely related genus Pelargonium contains some 280 species of annual, biennial, and perennial herbaceous plants also commonly called geraniums. The showy, or Martha Washington, geraniums (P. x domesticum) have large pansylike flowers, few to the cluster. Some geraniums are grown as basket plants indoors and out; they are also used as ground covers in warm areas. Some species have fragrant leaves. Geranium oil smells like roses and is used chiefly in perfumes, soaps, and ointments.

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Gardeners often use the name "geranium" to mean pelargonium: see below.

Geranium is a genus of 422 species of flowering annual, biennial, and perennial plants that are commonly known as the cranesbills. It is found throughout the temperate regions of the world and the mountains of the tropics, but mostly in the eastern part of the Mediterranean region. These attractive flowers will grow in any soil as long as it is not waterlogged. Propagation is by semi-ripe cuttings in summer, by seed or by division in autumn or spring.

The species Geranium viscosissimum is considered to be protocarnivorous.

The name "cranesbill" derives from the appearance of the seed-heads, which have the same shape as the bill of a crane. The genus name is derived from the Greek γέρανος, géranos, or γερανός, geranós, crane. The long, palmately cleft leaves are broadly circular in form. Their rose, pink to blue or white flowers have 5 petals.

Cranesbills are eaten by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail and Mouse Moth.

Pelargoniums

Confusingly, "geranium" is also the common name of members of the genus Pelargonium, which were formerly classified in the cranesbill genus. In the United States, true Geraniums are frequently distinguished from the less hardy Pelargoniums as (rather redundantly) "hardy geraniums" by gardeners and in the horticultural trade. One can make the distinction between the two by looking at the flowers: Geranium has symmetrical flowers, while Pelargonium has irregular or maculate petals. Other former members of the genus are now classified in genus Erodium, including the plants known as filarees in North America.

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