Thursday 16 July 2015

Cut-leaf cranesbill

The rear third of my garden is a wilderness, in which long meadow grasses and wildflowers frolic with abandon. I imagine the neighbours must hate it – this being the only part of the garden they can see from their windows. Bill, on the other hand, loves it, sniffing about for traces of fox and cat, and self-medicating by consuming vast quantities of cleavers – which makes him immediately sick – and then reappearing with the fur around his muzzle ebellished with clusters of tiny green seed capsules. I know he will complain with plaintive whines as I pull these free, but the memory of this procedure never seems to deter him from repeated forays into the undergrowth.

The wildflowers here are, of course, not the kind of wildflower that anyone seems to want – certainly not to be found as constituents of the more fashionable of wildflower mixes you might find in a garden centre or online, but rufty tufty native fare. You know – weeds. So if goosegrass isn’t your thing, we can do you buttercup, dock, woundwort, rosebay willowherb, ribwort plantain, and several varieties of thistle. And nettles. Lots of nettles.

And romping through this lot a kind of wild geranium that I haven’t noticed here abouts before. I’m used to working in the company of Herb Robert, with its pink flowers and red stems like strawberry bootlaces (I’m noticing an increasing habit to draw my metaphors from either the confectioners or the cake shop), but what struck me most about this obvious relative of that worthy weed was the discrepancy in size between the leaves (up to two and a half inches round, and so heavily dissected that the lobes appear almost like antlers), and the pink flowers which, by comparison, are tiny. This is Geranium dissectum, the cut-leaf cransebill, and the disparity just mentioned appears ludicrous, like some comic character in a cartoon strip with a burly frame and shrunken head. But the flower itslef, with its is five heart-shaped, sugar-pink petals, contrasting with the noticably hairy sepals, is exquisite.

The Plants for a Future database records a whole host of medicinal uses, both internally and externally, and both the leaves and roots are rich in tannins, and can be used to create a brown dye. All parts of the plant are edible, though it’s probably not something you’d want to seek out as a delicacy.

It’s all gone over now, at least in my garden, doubtless a few weeks early due to the particuarly dry conditions. This is rather a shame as I’d have liked to have got some better pictures of it. Looks like I’ll have to wait until next year, though I have my camera ready in case I catch it lurking in the shade under a hedge somewhere before this summer’s out.