Pelargonium patulum

Pelargonium patulum has attractive leaves and flowers and was introduced to Europe during the late 1700s, This plant is native to the South Western areas of Cape Province similar to P. grandiflorum and P. tabulare.

It is particularly good for hanging baskets because it is a trailing plant with lovely flowers which are light pink with red markings,the flower stalk contains 3-4 flowers.

The leaves are rounded greyish green with five or more lobes.

pelargonium patulum

Geranium bronze butterfly

geranium bronze butterfly web

Originally from South Africa the pelargonium butterfly also known as the geranium bronze (cacyrens marshalli) had been introduced into some areas of Europe mostly the Mediterranean regions and has spread more rapidly since the 1990s, the caterpillar or eggs could have been on the undersides of pelargonium leaves when they were transported as cultivated garden plants, but this is not certain.

They are regarded as pests and an invasive species to pelargoniums and geraniums and can cause a lot of damage especially during Summer when flowers and flower buds can be completely destroyed which can also lead to disease and even death.

Recorded Areas of Europe that have been inhabited by the pelargonium butterfly include Spain, France (Mediterranean regions), Italy, Portugal, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Malta, Greece and Turkey and the UK , but they may be restricted to certain districts.

The wing decorations of the butterfly are brown with a black outline around the edge interlaced with white, underneath the wings it is greyish brown in colour with blotches and a thin tail.

Pelargoniums in Art

Pelargoniums have gained popularity and fascination throughout Europe and beyond since the 1700s up to the present day, It has inspired many famous artists especially during the time of impressionists such as Van Gogh ( geranium in a flower pot), Renoir ( the geranium & cats 1881), Cezanne ( pots of geraniums 1885) and also Matisse ( still life with geraniums) among others.

There has also been a poem written about Geraniums by Richard Brinsley sheridam 1751-1815 an Irish writer, playwright and poet known for his works “ the rivals, the Duenna and a trip to Scarborough”,

The poem is called “ the geranium” part of the poem is as follows: “ Observe you sweet geranium flower, how straight upon its stalk it stands & tempts our violating hands, whilst the soft bud as yet unspread, hangs down its pale declining head.”

In recent times many artists and illustrators have created pelargoniums on stamps such as the colourful red pelargonium from Belgium and also posters, prints and textiles.

peli stamp

Pelargonium saxifragoides

Pelargonium saxifragoides is a petite & charming low growing shrub with tiny fleshy ivy shaped leaves, it was given the name Saxifragoides because of the similarity to Saxifrage meaning stone breaker in Latin which is the largest genus of the Saxifragaceae family and are low growing plants that grow in rock crevices in its native habitat and is also grown in cultivation for its brightly coloured flowers.
The flowers of the Pelargonium saxifragoides are star shaped and pink-white in colour with darker purple markings on the upper petals, the early history of this plant in Europe is unknown but was grown at Chiswick gardens by the Royal horticultural society during the 1800s.

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Pelargonium name history

geraniaceae-watercolour-webThe name Pelargonium was originally classified as a Geranium in the early years of discovery but the botanical name was later suggested by Dillenius in his botanical works and illustrations which included 7 species of Geraniums from South Africa and was based on the Greek word pelargo’s because the seed head has the appearance of a storks beak. Johannes burman a Dutch botanist and physician in 1753 mentioned the differences in species and organized them into the same genus Geranium, The name Pelargonium however was not actually established until Charles Louis L’H’eriter de Brutelle a French botanist and magistrate classified the pelargonium by the quantity of stamens in the flower, in which most pelargoniums have seven and divided them into two different genera. De Candolle in 1824 again split the genus into 12 different sections to show the different types of pelargoniums, some having longer petioles, thicker roots or leaf shapes etc, later extended to 16 sections by Knuth 1912.
The sections include Campylia, Chorisma, Cicronium, cortusina,Glaucophyllum,Hoarea,Isopetalum, Jenkinsonia,Ligularia,Myrrhidum,Otidia,Pelargonium,Peristera de Candolle,Polyactium de candolle,Reniforme,Subsucculentia

Pelargonium Ovale/tricolour


P. ovale pictured below has attractive white to deep pink flowers and is a low growing pelargonium with grey green narrow oval shaped leaves, it was brought to Europe in the 1700s by Francis Masson who collected many new plant species on his travels to Africa
Another close species is P. tricolor which is quite similar to P. ovale but smaller in size and with bright coloured flowers, deep red upper petals with a black spot at the base and white lower petals, the leaves are also grey green narrow oval shaped but a lot smaller in size. It has larger flowers when it is planted in the shade and smaller in bright sun light and was collected by Masson in 1791.
At the Royal Botanic gardens of Kew a few new hybrids were being created and a cultivator by the name of pelargonium Splendide was recorded as a cross between P. ovale & P. tricolor which is still quite popular today as a garden plant, the beautiful bicoloured flowers in two different shades, like the tricolor but much larger, dark red upper petals with a dark spot in the center and white lower petals.

pelargonium history

Pelargoniums were first introduced into Europe during the 1600s when new discoveries and trade routes began to unfold,
P.triste was the first recorded pelargonium to travel to Europe and was taken to the gardens of Leiden by the Dutch East India company followed by many more newly discovered pelargoniums.
The Countess of Strathmore collected many South Africa plants including Pelargoniums and sent William Paterson a Scottish Soldier & botanist to collect plants for her from 1777 to 1779.
During the Victorian era pelargoniums became increasingly popular & greatly admired and were often kept in greenhouses and conservatories, many new hybrids were being created to appear more colourful and showy. After world war 1 & 2 these plants started to fall into decline.
Over the decades these amazing plants are now returning their popularity.
This image is of Pelargonium scintillans (sparkling stock’s bill) from an old book from www.artscult.comflowers-18867