Herb-robert

Geranium robertianum                  

Common Name: Herb-Robert; Crane’s-bill; Red robin; Dove’s foot; Stinky Bob

  • Stems are 10-24 inches high and the leaves are divided into threes.
  • The flowers have five petals and are rose, bright pink or light purple.
  • The fruit is long and resembles the beak of a bird, hence the common name Crane’s-bill.
  • It is widespread throughout certain regions of the U.S. and Eurasia.

Native or Invasive: Native weak annual or biennial

Characteristics: The Herb-Robert has small, bright pink to purple flowers nestled among palmate (palm-shaped like a hand) leaves. There are usually two flowers arising from each flower stem. The freshly picked leaves release an unpleasant odor, and when they are crushed, they are often compared to the smell of burning tires. The bright pink flowers are easily spotted along cobble shores, where the plant can often be found growing in thin soil. It is found sporadically throughout the Great Lakes region, particularly in places with limestone as it is considered a calciphile (limestone-loving plant). Mourning doves and other birds as well as chipmunks and white-tailed deer eat the seeds.

Habitat: Wet shores, especially limestone and calcareous (alkaline) areas.

Fun Fact: In some areas of the country, like the state of Washington, it is referred to as Stinky Bob and is considered a noxious weed.

Ethnobotanical Uses: None listed, but related species have been used to treat diarrhea, heart problems, sore throats, toothaches and woods. Geranium tea was once believed to be a love potion. It was also carried to attract good luck.

Adapted from Guide to Great Lakes Coastal Plants, by Ellen Elliott Weatherbee, University of Michigan Press.