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Geranium maculatum

Wild or spotted geranium, crane’s bill

Plant Details

Common Name: Wild or spotted geranium, crane’s bill
Family: Geraniaceae (geranium family)
Mature Height: 6" - 2'
Sun Requirement: Sun to part shade, Part shade to shade
Moisture Requirement: Medium - moist, Moist
Flower Color: Pink, Violet
Bloom Time: Spring (May or earlier), Early summer (June - July)
Seed Collection Date: Early summer (June - July)

Geranium maculatum Spotted cranesbill
Geranium maculatum Spotted cranesbill

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Geranium is from the Greek, geranos, for crane, referring to the shape of the seed;  maculatum is Latin for spotted, referring to mottling of the leaf color.

Native Habitat

Woodlands, edges and fields.

Garden Uses

Wild geranium is a colorful addition to part-shade, fertile borders and woodland gardens, where it naturalizes easily and can be massed as ground cover. Removing spent blooms is unlikely to stimulate re-bloom. If dry heat discolors the foliage in summer, shearing, shaping and watering may revitalize the plant.


This geranium is tolerant of a variety of conditions, but prefers part-shade and medium, moist, well-drained soil. It forms mounds, with each mound reaching approximately 2' by 2'. Similar Maine natives include G. carolinium (which is more compact), and G. bicknellii (with smaller flowers, and notched petals); these are also visually differentiated by the length of the stalks attaching flowers and seed pods.

Leaves and Stems

Leaves are opposite, mottled green, palmate, with 5 deeply cut lobes; each measures up to 6" in diameter. Leaves grow in basal clumps, and up the stems more sparsely. Stems are green, branching, and reach 1' to 3' high; flowers grow in clusters of 2-5 at the branch tips above a pair of smaller leaves. The under-side of the leaves and the stems are hairy.


Saucer-shaped blooms face upward, are about 1.25" in diameter, and have 5 individual petals each. Fine dark-colored lines along the petals act as nectar guides. Centers include 5 greenish sepals and 10 yellow separate stamens. Blooms extend over a 6-week period beginning in mid spring.


Pods distinctively point upward, resembling a crane’s bill. These 1" seed pods include 2 parts: a long-thin beak-like column, and 5 basal cells that each house a seed. The basal surface is reticulated. This pod starts out green and then turns brown. Eventually the bill splits and springs backward to disperse the seeds. Seeds are small and dark-brown.

Animal Associates

Wild geranium attracts butterflies.  Other pollinators include various bees and syrphid flies. The seeds of this plant attract mourning doves and bobwhite. It can usually tolerate deer and rabbit browse. 


Spreads primarily but not aggressively by rhizomes. Propagate by root division in spring or fall. Seed pods can be collected just as they begin to darken about one month post bloom, prior to splitting; store them in paper bag in the refrigerator for autumn or spring planting. If sown in the autumn, the plants may bloom in their first year of growth.

Ethnobotanical Uses

Anti-diarrheal tea and salves for mouth ulcers have been made using wild geranium.

Garden Location

Performance Hall Garden (see garden map)


Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center 

Missouri Botanical Garden

Native Plant Trust 

University of Wisconsin – Wisconsin Horticulture: Division of Extension

Plant Profile by Kate O'Dell