I run the risk of writing a series about tiny-flowered geraniums but my post the other day reminded me of some (not great) photos I took in my last weeks in Ireland at St. Mullins on the eastern bank of the River Barrow in Co. Carlow. Geranium lucidum (shining cranesbill) is a European and Asian plant that is distinct because of its shiny leaves which are unlike any others. The leaves also have some white, quite prominent, bristly hairs but the whole plant is shiny and almost looks like plastic.
The leaves are usually bright, ‘apple’ green and the stems may be green or red. When the plant is ‘up against it’ and is growing in dry or poor soil the whole plant becomes infused with red and a really stressed plant can look more like a fine Saxifraga fortunei than a geranium. It is an annual and grows in poor, stony soils and frequently on or against walls as this clump was. The leaves are rounded and divided into five, lobed lobes and are attractive enough. Struggling plants reach only a few cm high but if they have decent conditions they can reach 45cm, especially against walls and if they have something to grow through.
The flowers are not exactly huge, rarely exceeding 15mm across but they are a vibrant deep pink that almost makes up for their small size. Another characteristic is that the calyx is rather inflated with a prominent ridge along the centre of each sepal and a few, tiny transverse ridges. The petals are oval and not notched and the stamens carry bright yellow pollen. Insects like the flowers.
But not every gardener or conservationist does because this plant has been introduced in the north west of the USA and found conditions there much to its liking. It is illegal to sell the plant or seeds in Washington State. In Europe, where it is native, it can be planted and it seems such a delicate (brittle) plant that it seems unlikely that it could ever be a nuisance and it strikes me as a perfect thing to sow over clumps of bluebells or wild garlic in wild areas but just take care you put it where you would not be too upset if it spreads around a little.
You can see the scale of the plant above by the size of the willow herb (epilobium) at the left.