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Environmental Studies

Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium) Geraniaceae

Geranium maculatum is one of the most common plants found in North America.  Humans love planting them because of their ability to survive in many different types of climates and conditions. 

Physical characteristics

Leaf: Leaves are palmately divided on long petioles arising from the crowns.

Flower | Seeds: Native wild geranium is light blue, purple, or pink and occur from spring to mid-summer.  The seed pods explode in mid-summer sending seeds in various directions leaving the opened seed pod looking like a little brown flower with petals curled back.

Life span: Geraniums are hardy perennial.  They will last for a long time.

Ecological characteristics

Wild geranium is a common plant of woodlands that occurs in all counties of Illinois. Habitats include both floodplain and upland woodlands, savannas, meadows in woodlands, semi-shaded seeps, and glades. Sometimes it invades hill prairies from adjacent wooded areas. It is a typical species of mesic deciduous woodlands.

Distribution range 

Importance to the ecosystem

The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract bumblebees, mason bees, halictid bees, andrenid bees, nomadine cuckoo bees, miner bees, and others. The flowers also attract syrphid flies, March flies (Empidae), small butterflies, and skippers. The caterpillars of some moth species feed on either the foliage or flower buds, including Lacinipolia lorea (bridled Arches), Heliothis virescens (geranium budworm moth, tobacco budworm moth), and Hemerocampa leucostigma (white-marked tussock moth). Chipmunks eat the seeds, while deer occasionally eat the foliage.

Relationship with other species

Non-human: Its flowers attract all sorts of insects.  It also serves as food source for many animals.

Humans: Humans plant wild geraniums for their aesthetic value.

Pests: Caterpillars, flies, and other insects occasionally eat the leaves, but the wild geranium has a small of amount of pests that bother it.

Other interesting facts

  • The geranium variety Pelargonium odorantissimum contains essential oils that provide an array of health benefits. Extracted from the plant’s stem and leaves, the oils are used as an astringent to improve skin and muscles, as a cytophylactic to promote healthy cell growth and as an antibacterial oil to prevent infection in cuts and wounds.

Page drafted by Charlie Marshall