Range and Habitat in Illinois
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Ontario south to Georgia and west to eastern Oklahoma and eastern North
and South Dakota [15,19,27].
Occurrence in North America
LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO NE NH
NJ NY NC ND OH OK PA RI SC SD
TN VT VA WA WI ON PQ
Wild geranium is perennial herb 8 to 24 inches (20-60 cm) tall . It
grows from a stout, branched, underground rhizome that spreads
horizontally up to 6 inches (15 cm). The rhizome bears 10 to 30
sparsely branched roots from the sides and undersurface.
Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal structures are present, increasing with
decreasing fertility of the soil [7,27,29,32]. A small proportion (4
percent) of populations are male-sterile; these female plants produce an
average of 60 percent more seed than hermaphroditic plants .
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Wild geranium is found in woods, coves, thickets, and meadows [15,29].
It appears to prefer more mesic sites such as those found on mid to
lower slopes with northern and eastern aspects; preferred soils are clay
loam to sandy clay loams and sandy loams [9,20,21,23,27], of average to
above-average fertility, and from slightly alkaline or neutral to
slightly acidic [7,27,32]. In a study of plant distribution and soil
acidity, Wherry  found wild geranium in abundance on a rich
bottomland site on Long Island with soil pH of 6.5. Fifty years later,
on the same site, Greller and others  found that the soil pH had
declined to 4.08, and wild geranium had become a very minor component of
Wild geranium is abundant in dense patches in natural openings
throughout mesic woodlands [27,37]. It is found on sites protected from
strong winds, in open shade on hillsides, and on shaded roadsides .
Cull , working on a project to establish native plants on old
highway verges in Illinois, found it already present on the site.
In a study relating understory herb distribution to overstory trees,
Crozier and others  reported that the highest positive association
of wild geranium is with white oak when compared with its other common
associates: beech (Fagus grandifolia), yellow-poplar, red maple (Acer
rubrum), sweet birch (Betula lenta), black cherry (Prunus serotina), and
northern red oak. This association may be a result of higher calcium in
the soils under white oaks, due to runoff down the trunk of the tree.
Tree associates in addition to the above named include shagbark hickory
(Carya ovata), white ash (Fraxinus americana), eastern hophornbeam
(Ostrya virginiana), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), and American elm
(Ulmus americana) [4,9,19,20,24].
Common understory associates include Solomon's seal (Polygonatum
pubescens), false Solomon's seal (Smilacina racemosa), snow trillium
(Trillium grandiflorum), Anemonella thalictroides, common mayapple
(Podophyllum peltatus), sedge (Carex spp.), and bellwort (Uvularia
Key Plant Community Associations
Jones [20,21] reported wild geranium as a dominant understory species in
a submesic northern red oak (Quercus rubra)/white oak (Q. alba)/wild
geranium community type in the hilly coastal plain province of South
Carolina. The overstory dominance is shared among northern red oak,
white oak, pignut hickory (Carya glabra), and yellow-poplar
(Liriodendron tulipifera). The shrub layer dominants are sweet-shrub
(Calycanthus floridus) and redbud (Cercis canadensis), with white ash
(Fraxinus americanus) in canopy gaps. The ground layer herbaceous
dominants include wild geranium, Christmas fern (Polystichum
acrostichoides), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), lovage (Ligusticum
canadense), and cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa).
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
More info for the term: hardwood
20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple
21 Eastern white pine
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
42 Bur oak
51 White pine - chestnut oak
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
75 Shortleaf pine
78 Virginia pine - oak
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
83 Longleaf pine - slash pine
108 Red maple
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
K081 Oak savanna
K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
K109 Transition between K104 and K106
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
Flower-Visiting Insects of Wild Geranium in Illinois
(Short-tongued bees suck nectar or collect pollen; flies and beetles suck nectar or feed on pollen; other insects suck nectar; some observations are from Macior, MacRae, Steury et al., and Grundel et al. as indicated below, otherwise observations are from Robertson)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus bimaculatus sn, Bombus griseocallis sn, Bombus impatiens sn, Bombus pensylvanica sn (Rb, Mc), Bombus vagans sn, Psithyrus variabilis sn; Anthophoridae (Anthophorini): Anthophora ursina sn; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina dupla dupla sn; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Synhalonia belfragii sn, Synhalonia rosae sn, Synhalonia speciosa sn fq; Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada articulata sn, Nomada denticulata sn, Nomada luteola sn, Nomada superba superba sn; Megachilidae (Coelioxini): Coelioxys sayi sn; Megachilidae (Osmiini): Hoplitis pilosifrons sn, Osmia atriventris sn, Osmia bucephala (Gnd), Osmia collinsiae (SDO), Osmia distincta sn, Osmia lignaria lignaria sn, Osmia pumila sn (Rb, SDO); Megachilidae (Stelidini): Stelis lateralis sn np; Megachilidae (Trypetini): Chelostoma philadelphi sn np
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon virescens sn, Augochlora pura (Gnd), Augochlorella aurata sn np, Augochloropsis metallica metallica sn (Rb, Gnd), Halictus rubicundus sn cp, Lasioglossum coriaceus sn, Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus sn np, Lasioglossum versatus sn np; Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena distans sn cp fq olg, Andrena geranii fq, Andrena illinoiensis sn np, Andrena polemonii sn np fq
Syrphidae: Helophilus latifrons fp np; Empididae: Empis distans sn fq np, Empis otiosa sn np, Empis pudica sn fq np
Lycaenidae: Everes comyntas sn; Pieridae: Colias philodice sn
Hesperiidae: Erynnis martialis sn
Sphingidae: Hemaris thysbe sn
Buprestidae: Acmaeodera ornata (McR), Acmaeodera tubulus (McR)
Plant Response to Fire
Wild geranium increases in abundance immediately after fire . On a
site invaded by black cherry and multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), wild
geranium reappeared following a prescribed fire that top-killed the
invading cherry saplings .
The Research Paper by Bowles and others 2007 provides information on
postfire responses of several plant species, including wild geranium,
that was not available when this species review was originally written.
Immediate Effect of Fire
No direct documentation of the direct effect of fire on wild geranium is
available. However, in light of the fact that the rhizome is found at
the soil surface under closed canopies and 3 to 4 inches (7-9 cm) deep
under open canopies , it is reasonable to suggest that the plant is
more easily killed by fire where the rhizome is closer to the soil
Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
More info for the terms: presence, succession
Facultative Seral Species
Wild geranium is moderately shade tolerant. It is found on disturbed
sites, but populations of wild geranium are best established in open,
undisturbed forest . In a study of secondary succession on the New
Jersey Piedmont, Bard  found populations of wild geranium on
undisturbed sites and did not find it in abandoned fields at any stage
of succession. This may indicate that its presence in seed banks is
short-lived and/or that wild geranium is not an effective colonizer.
Wild geranium perennates from a stout rhizome with blunt white tips that
hold the following year's bud [27,32]. Fragmentation of the rhizome
results in new individuals . Natural stands are mosaics of clones
that appear to have enlarged from old, individual plants and persist by
vegetative means only . Wild geranium is long-lived and has a low
mortality rate . When crowded, the roots may rise above the soil
surface, exposing the buds to freezing . Martin  noted that the
rhizomes are found at the soil surface (A1 horizon) under closed
canopies but in open communities are as deep as 3 to 4 inches (7-9 cm)
below the surface.
Young plants usually bloom for the first time in their second or third
year but will flower the first year following germination in the
greenhouse [27,32]. Production of flower buds, which will expand the
following year, takes place when sufficient nutrients are stored
[12,27]. Under closed canopies, only 18.8 percent of the plants flower,
as opposed to 97 percent in full sunlight . Wild geranium is
self-compatible but depends on pollinators for seed set. The most
common pollinators are bees (honeybees, bumblebees) and syrphid flies.
Other visitors to the flowers include beetles and ants [1,27,28,37].
Seeds are produced in a dehiscent fruit and are scattered by explosive
dispersal an average of 10 feet (3 m) and a maximum of 30 feet (9 m).
There is no obvious secondary dispersal vector (i.e. not carried by
rainwash or animals) [27,32,33].
Schiffman  reported wild geranium seeds in the seed bank of a
chestnut oak (Quercus prinus)/scarlet oak (Q. coccinea) forest. The
seed coat is only slightly permeable, and the seed requires
stratification before germination will take place. The longer the cold
treatment, the higher the germination rate . The seeds can have a
dormancy period in excess of 400 days. In a study of savanna
restoration, Bronny  reported that wild geranium reappeared when
cattle grazing was prevented on an oak savanna site, indicating either
its presence in the seed bank or the persistence of rhizomes in the
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Life History and Behavior
The basal leaves of wild geranium emerge in early spring (around the
period of vernal canopy closure) over a period of 4 to 6 weeks,
attaining 50 percent of total growth between late April and the first
week of May . The stems elongate in April, and blooms appear from
April to June, setting fruit 3 to 5 weeks later [27,29,32]. Flower buds
are formed in the year previous to flowering and are enclosed in the
winter bud. Cauline leaves senesce around October, turning red and
yellow, and are lost shortly therafter. The basal leaves die down in
October and November in the midwestern states, later in the southern
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Geranium maculatum
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Wild geranium appears to be dependent on the continued existence of
undisturbed stands of mesic, open forests. It is not usually found on
disturbed sites  and is not noted for rapid colonization . It
appears to be sensitive to acidification of soils, and thus areas that
are experiencing acid rain are likely to become less hospitable to wild
Wild geranium is easily cultivated. DeVault  transplanted rhizomes
of plants growing under closed forest to a fertile, full sun garden. The
plants, which had been growing poorly, responded with vigorous growth
under garden conditions.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Other uses and values
Extracts of wild geranium have been used medicinally by Native Americans
to treat diarrhea and various mouth ailments. Powdered preparations
were used to treat open sores or wounds. The rhizome contains tannic
and gallic acids, which contribute to its astringent quality. Clinical
trials have shown that tannins promote blood clotting, supporting its
use for bleeding sores or wounds .
Wild geranium can be cultivated as an ornamental by transplanting
rhizomes or by starting from stratified seed [13,27].
- "Wood Geranium" redirects here. Not to be confused with Wood Cranesbill or Woodland Geranium, G. sylvaticum.
Geranium maculatum, the spotted geranium, wood geranium, or wild geranium is a woodland perennial plant native to eastern North America, from southern Manitoba and southwestern Quebec south to Alabama and Georgia and west to Oklahoma and South Dakota. It is known as Spotted Cranesbill or Wild Cranesbill in Europe, but the Wood Cranesbill is another plant, the related G. sylvatium (a European native called "Woodland Geranium" in North America). Colloquial names are Alum Root, Alum Bloom and Old Maid's Nightcap.
It grows in dry to moist woods and is normally abundant when found. It is a perennial herbaceous plant growing to 60 cm tall, producing upright usually unbranched stems and flowers in spring to early summer. The leaves are palmately lobed with five or seven deeply cut lobes, 10–12.5 cm broad, with a petiole up to 30 cm long arising from the rootstock. They are deeply parted into three or five divisions, each of which is again cleft and toothed. The flowers are 2.5–4 cm diameter, with five rose-purple, pale or violet-purple (rarely white) petals and ten stamens; they appear from April to June in loose clusters of two to five at the top of the stems. The fruit capsule, which springs open when ripe, consists of five cells each containing one seed joined to a long beak-like column 2–3 cm long (resembling a crane's bill) produced from the center of the old flower. The rhizome is long, and 5 to 10 cm thick, with numerous branches. The rhizomes are covered with scars, showing the remains of stems of previous years growth. When dry it has a somewhat purplish color internally. Plants go dormant in early summer after seed is ripe and dispersed.
The plant has been used in herbal medicine, and is also grown as a garden plant. Wild Geranium is considered an astringent, a substance that causes contraction of the tissues and stops bleeding. The Mesquakie Indians brewed a root tea for toothache and for painful nerves and mashed the roots for treating hemorrhoids.
- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Geranium maculatum
- BorealForest: Geranium maculatum
- Missouriplants: Geranium maculatum
- Gleason, H. A. (1952). The New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, Vol. 2, page 457. Hafner Press, New York. 63-16478.
- Plants for a Future: Geranium maculatum
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Geranium maculatum.|
Names and Taxonomy
Named varieties listed by Jones and Jones  are: Geranium maculatum
var. album Lauman, Geranium maculatum var. plenum Lauman, and Geranium
maculatum var. maculatum. A white-flowered form is listed as Geranium
maculatum forma albiflorum House [15,22].
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