Musky Storksbill

Erodium moschatum (L.) L'Her.)

Family: - Geraniaceae.


Musky Storksbill because it has a musky odour and the seed head resembles a storks bill. In Australian specimens the musky odour is quite faint.

Other names:



Ground Needles

Musk Erodium

Musky Heron's Bill

Musky Storksbill


Whitestem Filaree

Wild geranium


A light green, lobed leafed, rosette forming annual herb to 40 cm tall that has a faint musk odour with pink-purple flowers from July to November and sharp, corkscrew seeds. The leaves are divided into separate leaflets, but each leaflet is only deeply toothed, usually less than halfway to the midvein. 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 30-50 mm 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. Oval, 8-12 mm long blade, edge lobed, base indented, tip round. Glandular hairs, especially on the edges and the stalk. Stalk 5-10 mm long. The seedling has a hypocotyl and no epicotyl.

First leaves:

Develop singly. Oval, 7-15 mm long with a stalk 5-10 mm long which tends to lengthen as the plant ages. Tip round. Often has leaflets. Simple and glandular hairs are present.


Form a rosette up to 500 mm wide.

Stipules - Broadly egg shaped to circular, 7-12 mm long, papery, obtuse tip.

Petiole - 2-16 mm long.

Blade - Oblong in outline, 30-200 mm long. 5-11 distinct, leaflets that are paired, on short stalks or stalkless along the midrib. Leaflets are egg shaped to elliptic, up to 9-40 mm long by 5-30 mm wide, lobed or toothed edge, tip round, often purple around lower veins and midrib or large reddish brown blotches. Glandular and simple hairs.

Stem leaves - Almost opposite. Smaller, 80 mm long blade with a 25 mm long petiole, and fewer leaflets. Lobed (depth is less than half way to midrib), often with purple around lower veins and midrib or large reddish brown blotches. Hairy. Upper leaves have no stalk. Simple and glandular hairs are present.


Solid with a pithy core, round, prostrate or curving upward, up to 1000 mm long. Branched from base and along their length. Covered in curled simple and glandular hairs.

Flower head:

Umbel on the ends of branches or in leaf axils, on a hairy, long, 80-160 mm, stalk (peduncle) that is longer than the leaves, with 1-10 flowers on shorter, densely glandular-hairy, stalks (pedicels) 10-18 mm long. Bracts at the top of the peduncle are similar to the stipules, free with tiny hairs near the top.


10-15mm diameter.

Ovary -

Sepals - Shorter than petals, 5-7 mm long, oblong to lance shaped. Dense glandular hairs.

Petals - 5, pink to purple, 7 mm long, oblong.

Stamens - 5 outer staminodes, oblong, notched or pointed tip, scale like and without anthers. Filaments of fertile stamens often 2 toothed near the base and free with a broad base and awl shaped tip.

Anthers -


5 sharp pointed fruitlets that split at maturity. Each has a corkscrew, beak 25-40 mm long with long bristles on the inner surface. The corkscrew propels the seed about 540 mm from parent in a sling shot action (Stamp, 1989) and helps bury the seed by straightening when damp and coiling as it dries.


Brown. 4-8 mm long by 1 mm wide and pointed, stiffly hairy with hairs brushed to one side. 2 concentric folds (or a concentric groove) below the obvious, deep, apical pit that has large glandular hairs.



Key Characters:

Leaves with leaflets. Leaflets toothed or lobed and cut less than half way to the mid vein. Flowers pink to white. 5 stamens and 5 staminodes.


Life cycle:

Annual. Germinates anytime with a flush in autumn. Forms a rosette over winter and produces stems in late winter. Flowers in spring.



By seed.

Flowering times:

July to November in SA.

Spring in NSW.

September to October in Perth.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:




Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

It appears to be more aggressive than the other Erodium species and tends to be more common in pasture situations.

Origin and History:




Eastern and southern areas of Western NSW.

Very common in all parts of Tasmania.





More abundant on sandy soils.

Long storksbill tends to predominate on low P soils and capeweed on high P soils.

Plant Associations:





Weed of crops, pastures, young lucerne, gardens and wet areas.

Strongly competitive and often overwhelms young crops.

Causes injury to stock and damages hides.

Wool contaminant.

Not very palatable.


May cause photo sensitisation in lambs.



Management and Control:

Tends to build up under heavy grazing. Spray grazing, pasture manipulation and spray topping can reduce infestation levels in pastures.


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:

Related plants:

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

Common Storksbill (E. cicutarium) is very similar but the leaflets are more deeply lobed, usually much more than half way to the midrib. The difference is most noticeable on the stem leaves.

Heronsbill (E. brachycarpum) doesn't have distinct leaflets.

Long Storksbill (E. botrys) is similar but the leaves are dark green and shiny and are not divided all the way to the midrib and don't have distinct leaflets and the beak on the seed is longer. The first leaf is lobed rather than having distinct leaflets.

Oval Heronsbill (E. malacoides)

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

Plants of similar appearance:

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). P175.

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

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). P432. Photo.

Gilbey, D. (1989). Identification of weeds in cereal and legume crops. Bulletin 4107. (Western Australian Department of Agriculture , Perth). P28-29. Photos.

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). #521.7.

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). P498.


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