Dove's-foot Cranesbill

Geranium molle L.

Family: Geraniaceae.

Names:

Geranium is from the Greek geranos for a crane because the fruit resembles a cranes head and bill.
Molle means soft and refers to the soft hairs on the plant.
Dove's-foot Cranesbill refers to the dove's foot shape of the leaves and the cranes bill like fruit.

Other names:

Cranesbill Geranium

Summary:

A softly hairy annual with paired flowers with 5, pink, notched petals, hairless corkscrew fruits and circular leaves lobed about half way to the middle.

Description:

Cotyledons:

Two. The cotyledon is 3 to 6 mm long x 5 to 10 mm wide, with a petiole 5 to 20 mm long which elongates as the seedling ages. Numerous short simple and glandular hairs occur on the upper and lower surface of the cotyledon and its petiole. The plant has a hypocotyl but no epicotyl.

First leaves:

The leaves grow singly, the first being 5 to 10 mm in diameter with a petiole which elongates to some 30 mm. Simple and glandular hairs are present on the upper and lower surfaces and the petiole. Later leaves are more deeply lobed, larger in diameter, and have longer petioles.

Leaves:

Forms a rosette. Alternate or opposite.
Stipules - Brown, papery, narrowly egg shaped, 1-2 mm long.
Petiole - Slender. Shorter on the upper leaves.
Blade - Circular to kidney shaped in outline, 8-20 mm long x 15-35 mm wide, 5-9 wedge shaped lobes cutting about half way to the centre. Lobes arranged like fingers on a hand and usually have tips with 3 lobes. Loosely hairy.
Stem leaves - About 40 mm in diameter, the lobes extending to a depth of about half the leaf radius. Upper stem leaves are smaller, have lance shaped, simple lobes and short petioles.

Stems:

Prostrate or semi erect, up to 500 mm long, slender, solid, circular in cross section, branching from the base and have both simple and shiny, stalked glandular hairs. Glandular hairs are normally more abundant near the ends of the stems. Base of stems have many papery, persistent stipules from the fallen basal leaves. Flowering stems leafy.

Flower head:

Inflorescences are axillary and terminal with the flowers in pairs on a slender stalks (pedicel), 8-15 mm long which are on another slender stalk (peduncle), 8-40 mm long.

Flowers:

8 to 10 mm in diameter.
Bracts - Egg shaped, tiny.
Ovary - Hairless.
Sepals - 2 mm long when in flower, egg shaped to oblong to elliptic, 3-5 mm long x 1.5 mm wide. Tip is acute to obtuse with a blunt extension of the midrib. Many long spreading hairs above short glandular hairs.
Petals - 5, pink to purplish petals, 3.5-5.5 mm long with a deep notch at the tip. Tiny hairs near the base. The petals are the same length or slightly longer than the sepals usually.
Stamens - Filaments up to 3 mm and hairless.
Anthers - mauve.

Fruit:

5, oval to egg shaped, hairless, fruitlets, 2 mm long x 1.5 mm wide, with crosswise wrinkles or network pattern. These surround a central column of 5-10 mm tapering beaks or awns. Each awn curls upwards from the base, carrying the fruit to form a corkscrew at maturity. Awns have glandular and simple hairs.

Seeds:

Almost smooth and elliptical.

Roots:

Taproot.

Key Characters:

Lobed leaves.
Pink, notched, 5 petalled flowers occur in pairs.
Mauve anthers.
Hairless fruits.
Corkscrew like fruits.

Biology:

Life cycle:

Annual, biennial or short lived perennial. Germination occurs in autumn and spring.

Physiology:

Reproduction:

By seed.

Flowering times:

September to January in SA.
October to November in Perth.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

None.

Hybrids:

A number of hybrids occur including var. molle.

Allelopathy:

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Origin and History:

Europe, northern Africa and western Asia.

Distribution:

ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA.
This species occurs throughout Tasmania but is probably less common in the North than in the South.

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

Habitats:

Climate:

Temperate.

Soil:

Prefers moist soils and swampy areas.

Plant Associations:

Significance:

Beneficial:

Ornamental.

Detrimental:

Weed of gardens, streams, roadsides, pastures, disturbed areas and occasionally in crops.
It is not of great economic significance in Tasmania.

Toxicity:

Not recorded as toxic.

Legislation:

None.

Management and Control:

Thresholds:

Eradication strategies:

Herbicide resistance:

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Common Cranesbill (G. retrorsum)
Cutleaf Cranesbill (G. dissectum)
Native Geranium (G. solanderi).

Plants of similar appearance:

Dove's foot Cranesbill is distinguished from Cut-leaf Cranesbill by the shallower lobes of the leaves generally and the lobes of the second leaf which are not sub-divided. In the mature plant the upper leaves, though more deeply divided than in the seedling, are not reduced to a series of narrow lobes. The petals of Cutleaf Cranesbill are less deeply notched at the tip and the fruits are hairy.

References:

Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P175. Photo.

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P482. Diagram.

Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press, Canberra). P232.

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.

Hyde-Wyatt, B.H. and Morris, D.I. (1975). Tasmanian weed handbook. (Tasmanian Department of Agriculture, Hobart, Tasmania). P69. Diagrams.

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). #582.2.

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). P499.

Acknowledgments:

Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or www.herbiguide.com.au for more information.