Tag Archives: Carolina Crane’s Bill

Finding New Plant Names

New plants turn up in well traveled places. Some are brand new to plant lists. I find ones I’ve never seen before. Either way, new plant names are needed.

A couple of weeks ago I had to walk around in town. Out of habit, I watched for plants in bloom and saw several. Spring beauty, grape hyacinths, chickweed, dead nettle and henbit were among them.

One I didn’t recognize was covered with red purple blooms. It was a small plant, a few inches tall. It had lacy leaves and hairy stems.

finding plant names uses leaf arrangments
The plant is low, only six inches tall. It’s numerous stems sprawl across the ground. Flowers bloom from along and at the tips of the stems. This fits lots of plants as do the lacy leaves.

Lots of plants fit this description. Finding new plant names is difficult when sorting through a pile of them with no idea how to narrow the search.

There were no seed pods on the plants. I made a note of where to find one patch so I could come back to see the seed pods.

finding plant names uses the flower arrangements
The flowers are a half inch across. They have five petals and five sepals. The center is a conical mound topped with the anthers and styles. Lots of flowers have five petals and five sepals. Lots of flowers are the purple these are. Finding the name can be difficult. Once the group is determined, the similarities to others in the group become obvious.

In the meantime I planned to check out the flowers on http://www.missouriplants.com, my go to place for new plant names. All you really need to know is the color of the flower and whether the leaves are alternate or opposite. Then you scroll through the thumbnail pictures until you find the flower.

Like so many good intentions in the spring, this one got shoved aside by more pressing matters.

An opportunity presented itself for me to race out and check this plant for seed pods. I found the patch and sat down to check the plant and stared.

finding plant names became easy after seeing the seed pod
The seed pod was the clincher for me. The somewhat bulbous base and long stalk is typical of the various crane’s bill group in the geranium family. It is the source of the common names for the plant as well.

It couldn’t be! These distinctive seed pods couldn’t belong to this plant, or could they? They did and I knew the group this plant belonged with: crane’s bills.

Another crane’s bill, the Carolina Crane’s Bill, grows near the driveway on my road and in nearby areas. The seed pod is a definite identification of the group, no other group has anything like it.

Carolina crane's bill flower
Carolina Crane’s Bill has lovely pink flowers a half inch across topping a scraggly plant that can reach a foot tall. It is a typical geranium flower, but much smaller than the commercial ones.

Finding new plant names can be much easier if the group is known, the geranium family in this case. This little plant has the common name Stork’s Bill. It is the introduced one originally from Europe.

Carolina Crane’s Bill Geranium carolinianum

The geranium family or Geraniaceae has three members in Dent County. The most noticeable is the wild geranium, Geranium maculatum, with its large deep pink flowers. This bushier, weedier member, Carolina Crane’s Bill, is more interesting after setting its fruit. Some crane type birds do put their beaks straight up to blend into the foliage behind them when danger threatens. The seed pods mimic this posture.

Geranium carolinianum L.

May to July                                                  N                                 Family: Geraniaceae

crane's bill flower

Flower: Flower stalks come out of the leaf axils. Each stalk ends with two light pink to lavender, notched flowers with three veins showing in each of the five petals. Five pointed, hairy, green sepals show between the five petals.

Crane's Bill leaf

Leaf: Some leaves are basal. The others are opposite on the stems. Each green leaf has a long hairy petiole. Five big veins go out five main lobes which divide into more lobes dividing into more lobes. The leaves can be covered with very short hairs.

Crane's Bill under leaf

Stem:The stems branch giving the up to two foot tall plant a bushy appearance. The stems are smooth, green to red and covered with short hairs.

Crane's bill stem

Root: There is an annual taproot.

Crane's Bill fruit

Fruit: The seed pod has a globular base with a long stalk pointing up from the base. These turn dark brown when ripe.

Habitat: This plant grows in many areas as glades, bluffs, prairies, stream banks, disturbed areas and woods. It prefers somewhat open areas.

Carolina Crane’s Bill

Crane's Bill plant

Carolina Crane’s Bill is easily identified by its distinctive leaves when it is small. Later the flowers look like miniature garden geraniums. Finally the seed pods looking like a crane pointing its bill skyward is unmistakable.

This is a tough plant. It can be found growing in gravel driveways. It seems to prefer these hard places as few other plants can grow there to offer competition.

Carolina Crane’s Bill stays smaller in packed ground. In better areas the plant spreads out and up for a couple of feet. Every leaf node sports flowers. Once the seed pods turn brown, the plant is decorated by them.

Since the plant is an annual, it produces lots of weeds. It grows quickly, blooms and sets more seeds. This and its tendency to grow in difficult places gets the plant listed as a weed.

The leaves are not poisonous and can be eaten. They are rated as very bitter. The short hairs would give them a fuzzy feel.