NATIVE or AUSTRAL STORK’S-BILL
(Photos: C. Schultz, flowers; a plant at the end of summer)
Another of the little herbaceous plants, this is rare around Cape Jervis. It will only grow about ankle-high, with leaves about 3cm across, so it could be easy to miss. However, it will be flowering over late spring and summer, so watch for the clusters of pale pink flowers then. They will have purple-red veins to help you spot them! The clusters sit above the plant, so that’s another help. Notice how the flower petals separate out as a group of two at the top, then three below. This is a typical feature of pelargoniums. The leaves are pale green with velvety hairs; leaf stems (petioles) are long. The roots of these butterfly-attracting little pelargoniums were an indigenous food source. They like coastal dunes and arid areas, so if you have sandy, free-draining soil, you might like to try these. Prune them hard after flowering to encourage new growth.
(Photos: E. Cousins: flower; C. Schultz, plant)
We were confused by this one when we first saw it; for a little while we thought it was a non-weedy native geranium, called Geranium solanderi (Australian crane’s-bill). What gave it away though was a good look at the leaf and flower shapes…and the fact that it did, quite literally, grow like a weed!! The soft crane’s-bill has leaves with a circular outline and lots of lobes not deeply divided (incisions go only a short way towards the leaf stem). The leaves of the Australian crane’s-bill, in contrast, have 5-7 lobes, deeply divided, with each lobe having 3 smaller lobes. How else will you know the weedy one? Stems have long, soft white hairs growing along them (‘molle’ is from the latin for ‘softly hairy’). Also, check out the flowers in spring-summer. They occur in pairs. As you can see in the photo above, flowers have five deeply notched pink-mauve petals around a cluster of dark stamens. The second photo above illustrates how small the flowers are in relation to the leaves… the flowers are only about 8-10mm in diameter. Flowers are followed by fruits with a long beak, the crane’s bill.