Common Storksbill

Erodium cicutarium (L.) L'Her. ex Aiton

Family: - Geraniaceae.


Common Storksbill

Other names:



Common Crowfoot

Common Heron's Bill

Common Storksbill

Redstem Filaree

Small Crowfoot



A light green, finely lobed leafed, rosette forming annual to biennial herb to 40 cm tall with pink to white flowers from July to October and sharp, corkscrew seeds and weak stems. The leaves have leaflets and the lobes of the leaflets are cut almost to the mid vein. The flowers are in stalked clusters, each flower with 5 free petals. There are 5 fertile stamens and 5 small antherless filaments. The style has 5 short lobes. The distinctive fruit is long, beak-like and splits into 5 fruitlets which, when mature, separate and twist so that each seed is attached to a spirally-twisted corkscrew-like awn. The fruits 3.5-5 cm long including the awn. It forms a ground hugging rosettes of leaves initially then produces sprawling stems the curve upwards near their ends.

Native to Europe or the Mediterranean region, they are now weeds of pasture, crops, wasteland and roadsides.



Two. The cotyledon has a deeply lobed blade 5 to 8 mm with a petiole 10 to 15 mm long. Round tip. Base indented. A few glandular and fine hairs are present. The seedling has a hypocotyl but no epicotyl.

First leaves:

The leaves arise singly, the first leaf having a blade 5 to 10 mm long with a petiole 10 to 15 mm long. Both simple and glandular hairs are present on the blade and petiole. The first leaf is usually lobed to the midrib.


Forms a rosette with a diameter up to 400 mm.

Stipules - Narrowly egg shaped to triangular, 3-12 mm long. Acute or tapering tip.

Petiole - Up to 40 mm long

Blade - Dull Light green, egg shaped to oblong in outline, 30-80 mm long. Separate, lateral, distinct, stalkless leaflets that are egg shaped to oblong, 8-10 mm long by 5-6 mm wide, lobed to the mid vein and the lobes are toothed.

Stem leaves - Dull light green. Have a blade 40 mm or more long with a petiole approximately as long again. Short, glandular and simple hairs.


The stems are solid with a pithy core, erect, semi erect or curved upwards at the ends, circular in cross section, up to 900 mm long, branching from the base and along their length. Long, glandular and simple hairs. Ring of membranous scales at the base of the stem in the rosette.

Flower head:

The inflorescence is terminal or in leaf axils with 1-8 flowers on a long, 40-80 mm, hairy or glandular hairy, slender stalk (peduncle) with bracts fused into a funnel shaped toothed tube. The individual flowers are on 9-22 mm long, hairy or glandular hairy stalks (pedicels). Stalks vary from hairy to almost hairless. Bracts similar to stipules.


8 to 12mm in diameter.

Ovary -

Sepals - Oblong to elliptic, membranous, 3-6 mm long, with a mucro tip with 1-2 long hairs. Hairy to almost hairless with tiny hairs on the edges.

Petals - 5, pinkish/purple to white often with dark markings, spreading, oblong to elliptic, 4-8 mm long, The two upper ones are slightly longer than the 3 lower ones.

Stamens - 5 outer staminodes scale like, awl shaped and without anthers. Filaments are oblong, broadened at the base, free or joined at the base, not toothed and the top is thread like.

Anthers -


5 pointed fruitlets, each with a corkscrew (20-50 mm) awn that is hairy on the inner side.


Brown, hairy, 3-8 mm long by 1.5 mm wide with a shallow pit and pointed. One concentric, hairless fold below the pit.



Key Characters:

Dull light green leaves with separate leaflets that are cut to the mid vein. Flowers pink. Bracts joined into a toothed tube. 5 stamens and 5 staminodes.


Life cycle:

Annual or biennial. Autumn is the main germination time in disturbed areas and established pasture. In crops germination commonly occurs in Spring and through Summer where moisture is available. It grows mainly through the winter spring period and flowers in spring to summer. Late germinating individuals can flower when they are quite small.



By seed.

Flowering times:

July to October in SA.

June to September in Perth.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:



Variety stellatum is a small almost stemless plant with two, white, upper petals with a dark red spot.


Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

It appears to be somewhat less aggressive in pastures than Musk Storksbill in Tasmania.

Corkscrew awn propels the seed about 540 mm from parent in a sling shot action (Stamp, 1989) then assists with burying the seed by straightening when damp and coiling as it dries.

Origin and History:

Europe. Southern Asia, Northern Africa.



Found in all parts of Tasmania.

Widespread throughout Western NSW.



Temperate. Mediterranean.


Most abundant on sandy soils, but occurs on a wide range of soils.

Plant Associations:

In many communities.



Fodder that is palatable and productive in winter and spring.


Weed of waste areas, arable crops, and pasture.

Seeds injure stock, shearers and handlers.


May be toxic.

May cause photo-sensitisation in sheep.



Management and Control:

Spray grazing, pasture manipulation and spray topping can reduce infestation levels in pastures. However this may lead to invasion by even less desirable species.


Eradication strategies:

Preventing seed set for 2-3 years will result in very low populations.

Manual removal and cultivation are effective but time consuming.

Hormone herbicides provide good control of young plants. It is relatively tolerant to glyphosate. Spray.Seed® at 2 L/ha provides good non selective control. Lower rates of 1 L/ha Spray.Seed applied at flowering reduces seed set.

In bushland situations, 2,4-DB(400g/L) at 4 L/ha (80 mL in 10 L water) or Lontrel®750 at 120 g/ha (2 g in 10 L water for spot sprays) applied before flowering provides reasonably selective control. For highly selective control, use Verdict®520 at 100 mL/ha plus oil (2 mL plus 100 mL oil in 10 L water for hand sprays) on actively growing seedlings before flowering.

Replanting tall growing and scrub species, to increase levels of shade, and reducing grazing will help prevent reinfestation.

Herbicide resistance:

Biological Control:

Rabbits eat immature fruit and tend to ignore the leaves.

Related plants:

Blue Storksbill (E. cygnorum) (a native weed of horticulture in Manjimup) is similar but has sky blue flowers and palmately lobed leaves.

Heronsbill (E. brachycarpum)

Long Storksbill (E. botrys) has shiny, dark green leaves and rarely has true leaflets.

Musky Storksbill (E. moschatum) is similar but usually larger, has more lobed cotyledons, and the first leaf has distinct leaflets rather than very deep lobes, the later leaves have leaflets that are not as deeply dissected, so the plant looks less ferny.

Oval Heronsbill (E. malacoides)

Plants of similar appearance:

Common Storksbill is distinguished from Musky Storksbill as a seedling by the shape of the cotyledon and the first leaf that is lobed but not completely pinnate. In the rosette and mature stages the leaflets are far more deeply divided, frequently more than half way to the mid-rib. This is particularly noticeable in the upper stem leaves.

Native species of Geraniaceae have broader leaves which are palmately divided (like a hand).

Capeweed, Turnips, Radish and Mustard.


Stamp, N.E, (1989). Seed dispersal of four sympatric grassland annual species of Erodium. Journal of Ecology, 77:1005-1020.

Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P174-175. Photo.

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P483.

Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press, Canberra). P236.

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P431. Photo.

Hyde-Wyatt, B.H. and Morris, D.I. (1975). Tasmanian weed handbook. (Tasmanian Department of Agriculture, Hobart, Tasmania). P70-71. Diagrams.

Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P166. Photo.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #521.3.

Marchant, N.G., Wheeler, J.R., Rye, B.L., Bennett, E.M., Lander, N.S. and Macfarlane, T.D. (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P497-498.

Wilding, J.L. et al. (1987). Crop weeds. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P118. Diagrams. Photos.


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