HERB ROBERT (Geranium robertianum, Wild Geranium)
Europe, Asia, N Africa
Herb Robert is a native British cranesbill that can be found throughout Britain & Ireland. The small PINK flowers of this wild Geranium appear in May, set in delicate green foliage that turns rusty red in dry weather. The flowers bloom until October.
When its seedpods split, seeds are flung out with great force. Later, new plants spring up everywhere – in shade, damp soil, coastal shingle, cracks in concrete, gaps between paving stones.
Herb Robert is the food plant of bees, long-tongued hoverflies and the Barred Carpet Moth. A number of insects pollinate it, but if none are available it can pollinate itself.
Geranium Robertianum is thought to have been named for the 11thC French saint, Abbot Robert of Molerne.
“In folklore, Herb Robert was said to be protected by Robin Good-Fellow, (Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream); to harm it “is to court disaster – your house might well be struck by lightning, and if you keep a cow, its milk may be turned to blood. Not nice on your porridge!”
Nature’s Forgotten Folklore: Myths and Magic in Islington, Richard Meyers for Islington Council/ Islington Ecology Centre, Gillespie Park, London
Uses of Herb Robert
‘The great mystic and herbalist Hildegard of Bingen extolled the virtues of this humble flower, recommending its use (in a powdered form, eaten on bread) to strengthen the blood, balance the mind, and ease all heartbreak.’ Myth & Moor: More folklore of the wildflowers
Untroubled itself by pests and diseases, this wildflower’s healing effects are felt by plants growing nearby. It was used in animal bedding, its leaves made into tea to boost the body’s immune system or rubbed on the skin to repel insects.
Other names : Arb Rabbits, Baby’s Pinafore, Bloodwort, Cranesbill, Cry Baby, Cuckoo’s Eye, Death-come-quickly, Doll’s Shoes, Dolly’s Apron, Dolly’s Nightcap, Dolly’s Pinafore, Dragon’s Blood, Drunkards, Felonwort, Fox Geranium, Gipsies, Gipsy Flower, Gipsy’s Parsley, Goose Bill, Granny’s Needles, Granny’s Nightcap, Granny Thread the Needle, Headaches, Hen and Chickens, Hop o’ My Thumb, Jack Horner, Jam Tarts, Jenny Flower, Jenny Hood, Jenny Wren, Joe Stanley, John Hood, Kiss Me, Kiss Me Love at the Garden Gate, Kiss Me Quick, Knives and Forks, Lady Janes, Little Jack, Little Jan, Little Robin, Mary Janes, Red Robin, Wren Flower.