Stork's Bill Geranium
Erodium cicutarium (L.) L'Her. ex Ait.
Family: Geraniaceae, Geranium
Genus: Erodium
Synonyms:
Other names: redstem stork's bill
Nomenclature: cicutarium = pertaining to hemlock
Nativity / Invasiveness: introduced plant
Edible plant
Medicinal plant
Description

General: annual, 3-30 cm tall, stems usually more or less reddish and short-hairy, the nodes swollen.

Leaves: mostly basal in a rosette of overwintering leaves, sometimes also a pair opposite on the stem, all pinnately divided, the segments again pinnately cut once or twice, the ultimate divisions very narrow. Leaf stalks often short-hairy. Stipules pointed.

Flowers: few, 10-15 mm broad, in small umbel-clusters at the end of long stalks from leaf axils. The 5 sepals are bristle-tipped, persistent. The 5 petals about half again as long as the sepals, pink, often of 2 slightly unequal sizes, the short claw short-hairy on the edges. Filaments 10, distinct, alternately long and short, only the longer ones with anthers. Styles spirally twisting at maturity, 2.5-5 cm long with the receptacle. April-July.

Fruits: capsules, sharp-pointed at the base, with the long persistent styles attached, the seeds smooth.


Distribution

Drier plains and hillsides at lower elevations, in w. and c. parts of MT. Native of Eurasia, now widespread throughout much of w. U.S.
Edible Uses

Young leaves of stork's bill geranium are edible, raw or cooked as a potherb. Harvested in the spring before the plant flowers, they are tasty and nutritious. The leaves are added to salads, sandwiches, soups etc, and can be used in recipes that call for leaves of beet, plantain, sow thistle or amaranth. Young stems are edible raw. The root has been chewed by children as a gum. The species is palatable and nutritious and is valuable as stock feed, especially for sheep.



Medicinal Uses

The whole plant is astringent and has agents that check bleeding. It has been used in the treatment of uterine and other bleeding. The root and leaves have been eaten by nursing mothers to increase the flow of milk. Externally, the plant has been used as a wash on animal bites, skin infections etc. A poultice of the chewed root has been applied to sores and rashes. A tea made from the leaves has agents that induce sweating and urination. An infusion has been used in the treatment of typhoid fever. The leaves are soaked in bath water for the treatment of rheumatism. The seeds contain vitamin K, a poultice of them is applied to gouty typhus.



Other Uses

A green dye is obtained from the whole plant. It does not require a mordant. The remnants of the styles are very hygroscopic, they can be used in hygrometers and as weather indicators. The dried plant powder has been mixed with watermelon seeds during storage and planting in order to prevent watermelon disease.


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