Our native wild flower Geranium robertianum forms attractive rosettes of fern-like leaves, with pretty five-petalled pink flowers that are in bloom from April until October. The branching stems are often shiny and turn conspicuously deep red at the end of the flowering season.
William Wordsworth found the plant to be
"....gay with his red stalks on this sunny day”
Herb Robert grows as a shade-tolerant annual or biennial plant. Native to the UK, it is common on shaded banks, hedgerows, woods and coastal shingle throughout the country, and is tolerant of all but the most acidic soils.
Commonly known as Herb Robert it is an ancient herb, historically the plant was valued for its medicinal qualities. The whole plant served to heal wounds, help stop bleeding and used as an astringent for skin irritations and bruises. Today the plant's popularity has declined.
The leaves are well known in rural areas for producing a pungent odour when crushed, in some rural places the plant is still called "Stinking Bob’. It is fascinating to discover that the foxy smell of Herb Robert has the effect of repelling rabbits, especially as one of its many common names is ‘Fox Geranium’
Sowing: Sow in Late winter/late spring or late summer/autumn.
Sow seed 25mm (1in) apart in a peaty mix compost. If starting seed in a seed-tray, choose one with really deep cells. The seedlings need a lot of root room to get started. “Just cover” the seeds with 2mm (1/16in) compost. Seed will germinate in germinates in less than two wks. Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays. After the last expected frosts, gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out into their permanent positions, space 22 to 30cm (9 to 12) apart.
Plants are best planted in poor, well-drained soil in full sun but will tolerate most soils in full sun and can tolerate partial shade. Deadhead to prevent self-seeding, if preferred.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flowers Borders and Beds, Wildlife / Butterfly Garden.
Traditional herbalists consider Herb Robert to be a supreme, therapeutic herb, having both an antiseptic and a styptic effect. The active ingredients are tannins, bitters, and essential oils. An infusion made from the whole plant, minus the root, has been used for its diuretic and tonic effect and as a remedy for dysentery. It is used as a remedy for toothache and nosebleeds, and on wounds for healing and to prevent scarring,
Nicholas Culpepper wrote: (17th century astrologer-physician)
"All Geraniums are vulneraries, but this herb more particularly so." (Vulnerary means wound healer.)
Crushed leaves make a good insect repellent. Infuse the leaves and apply to the head to get rid of head lice. Freshly picked leaves rubbed on the body to repel mosquitoes.
The name Geranium comes from the Greek 'geranion', which is a diminutive of 'geranos' meaning crane, because the seedpods are shaped like a bird’s beak. It is also why the plant has been given the common names: ‘storkbill’ and ‘cranesbill’
The common name ‘Herb Robert’ comes from Medieval Latin herba Roberti, but just which Robertus was meant remains a mystery. It is thought that the herb may be named after the 11th Century French Saint Robert, Abbot of Molerne, whose medical skills were legendary.
Although the "Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Britain", the "Robert" aspect of the plant's name could be derived from the Latin "ruber".
The roster of the various common names of this herb gives a vivid picture of the plant.
Bloodwort, Fox Geranium, Herb Robert, Red Robin, Felonwort, Robin's eye, Robin hood, Robin-i'-th'-hedge, Stinking Bob, Stinker Bobs, Wren Flower. Storkbill’ and Cranesbill’. In North America it is also known as Robert Geranium.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 25 Seeds Family Geraniaceae Genus Geranium Species robertianum Cultivar Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Synonym Robertiella robertiana Common Name Herb Robert, Garden Geranium,
Wildflower of Britain and Ireland
Other Common Names Garden Geranium Other Language Names IR. Ruithéal rí Hardiness Hardy Biennial Flowers Bright pink flowers Natural Flower Time May until October Foliage Mid Green, Deeply Divided. Fern like Height 30-50cm (12-20in) Spacing 22-30cm (9-12in) Position Full sun to partial shade. Soil Best planted in poor, well-drained soil. Time to Sow Sow in Late winter/late spring or late summer/autumn. Germination Less than two wks.