Geranium homeanum

Rainforest Crane's-bill

Family: Geraniaceae

A soft, herbaceous, creeping-spreading (mostly prostrate), annual or perennial herb to 0.3 metres tall and with stems to 70 cm long; potentially spreading to many metres wide by rooting at the nodes; otherwise often growing in colonies; with a fleshy branching taproot. 

In NSW, it is common along the coast and tablelands and found sparsely in the western slopes; from border to border along the coast and tablelands (sometimes patchy records); as far west as Albury, Lithgow, Armidale and Jennings. It extends into Queensland, from the coast out to around Inglewood in the south, north to mostly around Biloela; with disjunct records west of Mackay and near Atherton. It occurs commonly in the east of Victoria, as well as along the western parts of the south coast (Apollo Bay) and close to the South Australian border (Nelson). It occurs in South Australia in the Adelaide-area. It also occurs in New Zealand on the north island. 

It is commonly found in dry and wet sclerophyll forest and woodland, as well as margins of rainforest, on a variety of soils – often moist and enriched. 

Stems and leaves are generally softly hairy with coarse hairs.

Geranium spp. have simple leaves which can be arranged oppositely or alternately. In this species, the leaves are opposite, palmatisect with a circular to reniform (kidney-shaped – sideways in this case) lamina, to 4 cm long and 5 cm wide, divided into 3 to 5 lobes; with the terminal of each lobe secondarily divided into at least 3 lobes or teeth at the apex, on a petiole to 5 cm long; light to dark green in colour.

Geranium spp. have 5-merous flowers with 5 sepals and petals and with 10 stamens surrounding 1 carpel (bisexual); arranged in terminal umbels / cymose umbels or otherwise solitary or in pairs. In this species, flowers are usually paired, on a peduncle to 2.5 cm long, with pedicels 2.5 cm long; flowers to 10 mm wide; pink to white in colour with white anthers; mainly produced in summer.

Geranium produce a fruit termed a mericarp (small woody nutlet) which splits open to expose the seeds. In this species, the mericarps are linear, to 15 mm long, with stiff hairs, releasing black seeds containing long pits.

In the garden

This species is very similar to G. solanderi and the cultivation notes can probably be given as identical. 

It may “colonise” gardens of its own accord if populations are growing nearby such as adjoining bushland. This Editor has many plants in the home garden in Sydney which “crawl under the fence” from the adjoining bushland reserve.

It serves well as a groundcover and weed suppressor and forms a nice groundlayer, especially in areas where other plants are hard to grow, serving as cover for frogs and small reptiles.

Would make an ideal ground cover plant for the garden, with its many, colourful flowers occurring over a long period.

Prefers moist soil in high rainfall areas in a full sun to partial shaded position.

Can become weedy. It can always be controlled with some hand-weeding. 

Plants are generally available commercially.


By seed or root division

Other information

Geranium spp. likely regenerate after fire from the root zones (taproot) as well as seed bank. 

Geranium is a genus of around 420 species of annual, biennial, and perennial herbaceous plants, commonly known as geraniums or cranesbills, found in many parts of the world from the Mediterranean to tropical mountains. Australia has 16 species (9 species endemic, 4 species naturalized) growing in all States. NSW currently has 12 native species and 3 exotic-naturalised.

The large fleshy roots were roasted and eaten by First Nation People.

Geranium from Ancient Greek geranos/yeranos (γέρανος) meaning ‘crane’ (bird). The English name ‘cranesbill’ stems from the resemblance of the fruit in some species to a crane’s head and bill. The ovary forms the head and the prolonged stigma creates the appearance of a beak.

homeanumFrom Greek – Omoios (όμοιος) – meaning “similar” or “alike” – likely capturing its similarity to other species such as G. solanderi.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. 

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Geranium homeanum profile page: https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Geranium~homeanum

Plant of South Eastern New South Wales (LUCID Plant Identification Online website/app – Geranium homeanum profile page: https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/geranium_homeanum.htm

Yarra Ranges Council – Local Plant Directory – Geranium homeanum profile page https://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/PlantDirectory/Herbs-Groundcovers/Geranium-homeanum 

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.