Geranium robertianum L. – more commonly known as Herb-Robert – is a small, often red, plant with deep pink flowers that is common throughout the British Isles and on Whiteknights campus. The genus Geranium is named after the Greek ‘geranos’, which means crane (Johnson & Smith, 1986). This is because of a common feature of the family (Geraniaceae) is the fruit and seeds have an apical sterile beak – which is just an extension at the end of the fruit which looks a bit like the long beak of the crane. Herb-Robert (and others in the subgenus Robertium) disperse their seeds by ejecting them explosively from the beak. Herb-Robert is a strong smelling plant and is native to woodlands, banks, scree and maritime shingle (Stace, 2010). Herb-Robert contains large amounts of tannins, especially Geraniin (Baxter & Harborne, 2001) and has been used medicinally in the past as a blood stauncher (Hatfield, 2009). Herb Robert also has several subspecies as it is very variable in morphology. Pictures of Herb-Robert can be found here.
Baxter, H. & Harborne, J.B. (2001) Chemical Dictionary of Economic Plants. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Hatfield, G. (2009) Hatfield’s Herbal. London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Johnson, A.T. & Smith, H.A. (1986) Plant Names Simplified. Herefordshire: Landmans Bookshop Ltd.
Stace, C.A. (2010) New Flora of the British Isles. 3rd Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
One of the distinctive features of Herb Robert for me is the very strong, and rather unpleasant smell it produces in its foliage and stems. I’m not aware that any of the other british species produce this smell.