Weed of the month: January

COMMON STORKS BILL

(Erodium cicutarium)

(Photos: E. Cousins, plant, close-up of flower; Cape Jervis. http://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/21843 ripe fruit )

Shin high, with deeply divided leaves, this weed loves disturbed or arid sites. There it will outcompete native plants. The annual weed has a rosette of deep green leaves at the base, which might produce a bit of stem as it grows older.  From the basal leaf rosette, slender stalks grow, supporting a small cluster of flowers. The flowers are 5-petalled and pink, each petal roughly elliptic in shape, 4-6mm long.

It is the long seed pods though that give the plant its common name. These grow as a ‘beak’ 3-4 cm long. As they ripen and dry, they twist to produce the corkscrew seen in the photo on the right. At this stage the feathery seeds are released into the air. Another Erodium, with the common name of Long Storks Bill, produces a beak up to 10cm long!