This little colony has slowly expanded under my Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) over the past 4 years.

This little colony has slowly expanded under my Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) over the past 4 years.

Butterflies and Moths of North America

Butterflies and Moths of North America

The veins in the petals of Wild Geranium function as nectar guides. In this photograph you can see that the anthers that produce the pollen are prominent and filled with pollen. The stigma is not yet developed.

The veins in the petals of Wild Geranium function as nectar guides. In this photograph you can see that the anthers that produce the pollen are prominent and filled with pollen. The stigma is not yet developed.

In the second stage, now that the pollen supply has been depleted, the stigma in this flower that leads to the ovary has opened and is available for pollination from another flower. This strategy avoids self-pollination.

In the second stage, now that the pollen supply has been depleted, the stigma in this flower that leads to the ovary has opened and is available for pollination from another flower. This strategy avoids self-pollination.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

by Trish Beckjord, RLA

There are a number of native bees, mostly solitary ground nesters, that are more active in the spring. In May this includes Cellophane bees, Mining bees, Small Sweat bees, Mason Bees, Large Carpenter bees and Cuckoo bees. One native wildflower that is common to them as a pollen and nectar source is Wild Geranium, Geranium maculatum.

Wild Geranium is one of those native wildflowers that adapts to and looks good in residential gardens. It grows no more than 2 ½ feet tall, though often clusters seem to stay below 18 inches. My personal observation is that its height is dependent upon that of the surrounding plants.

As a species typically found in woodland conditions, this delightful wildflower prefers light shade and a good garden soil that would be similar to what develops in richer mesic woodlands where leaves from surrounding trees are allowed to lay and breakdown over time. It will also grow in full sun if given sufficient moisture through the growing season. Wild Geranium blooms for about a month in late spring and early summer. Flower color is generally a light pink but will range from lighter to deeper shades.

Wild Geranium spreads slowly by seed and creeping rootstock, however, I would not characterize it as aggressive.

Small mounded colonies will expand in the garden as room is allowed and I tend to find small new plants here and there where seed has landed, having been forcefully ejected from the seed capsule in the fall. Personally, I love to find these new “babies”. If allowed to grow for a bit they are easily transplanted. The palmate leaves of this species are distinctive and add textural interest in their own right.

Fall leaf color can be a deep red but is not consistent.

One of the Mining bees, Adrena distans, is a specialist feeder on Geranium; another example of how an invertebrate species has adapted to specific plant species. In addition to a variety of bee species, Wild Geranium will attract various flies, skippers and butterflies. It is a source of both nectar and pollen. It serves as a larval host for the White Marked Tussock Moth.

This plant will tolerate deer, rabbits, poorer soil and drought. It is one of my favorites!