Geranium solanderi

Native Geranium, Australian Cranesbill, Austral Cranesbill, Cut-leaf Cranesbill, Native Carrot and Hairy Geranium

Family: Geraniaceae

A very soft, herbaceous, spreading/creeping perennial herb that grows to about 0.2 m tall and about 1 metre wide with a basal taproot; often forming ground-covering colonies by rooting at the nodes.

It has a very widespread and natural distribution in NSW, and Australia for that matter. It can be found commonly across the much of the coast, tablelands,western slopes and western plains, virtually from border to border on the coast, tablelands and slopes, sometimes with patchy records, extending out to Griffith, Deniliquin and Swan Hill, north to Yathong Nature Reserve, and to the west of Moree. It extends into Queensland, along the coast to around Biloela and west of here to near Tambo. It grows through much of Victoria, with the exception of the north-west section. It is found over most of Tasmania as well as the islands of Bass Strait. It is common in South Australia, from the Victorian border around Mount Gambier and then with a disjunction to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, north to Mawson Plateau, then to the west between Whyalla and Penong. It then occurs in the south-west of Western Australia from between Cervantes and Albany, as well as around Esperance. It is also native to New Zealand.

It is generally found in dry and wet sclerophyll woodland and forest as well as grasslands and even paddocks, as well as disturbed bushland edges, on all soil types.

The taproot is swollen and often shaped like a narrow turnip – orange-brown in colour.

Stems and leaves are generally softly hairy.

Geranium spp. have simple leaves which can be arranged oppositely or alternately. In this species, leaves are opposite, palmatisect in shape with a mostly circular lamina, dissected into 5 to 10 lobes which each have toothed margins or secondary lobes in the upper sections; to 3 cm long and 5 cm wide; light to mid green, or dark green; on petioles to 5 cm long.

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 in pairs or rarely solitary, on peduncles to 4 cm long and then pedicels to 5 cm long; each flower up to 20 mm across, bright pink in colour with yellow veins and yellow anthers; occurring most of the year but mostly in late winter to early summer.

Geranium spp. produce a fruit termed a mericarp (small woody nutlet) which splits open to expose the seeds. In this species, the mericarps are linear, to 25 mm long, with stiff hairs, releasing black seeds containing pits.

In the garden

This is a very “easy-to-grow” species in most circumstances. It is also a species that will simply “colonise” a garden space if propagules or established plants are nearby.

It does a good job of creating a groundcover and brings more ground-layer to the garden. It can appear messy in some cases and can always be hand-removed to keep it in check.

A bright hardy rockery plant where there is some moisture and partial shade. In a moist position it can spread quickly, developing roots at nodes along
prostrate stems.

It needs very little maintenance or attention.
Lends to cottage-style gardens and in any garden or larger landscape project where native meadows are being established.


Is grown from seed or cutting.

Seed germinates readily once the seeds are treated with hot water at 60 degrees C for 30 minutes, then sown. Taproots can be dug up and transplanted if required.

Other information

Two varieties of Geranium solanderi are recognised:

  • var. solanderi – petals 5 to 8 mm long; sepals c. 5 mm long; fruit 12 to 15 mm long; taproot usually turnip-like – most of the geographic range;
  • var. grande – petals 10 to 12 mm long; sepals 6 to 9 mm long; fruit 18 to 25 mm long; taproot swollen and branched but not turnip-like. All parts larger than the type variety – central western slopes and northern tablelands of NSW only.

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.

The Noongar people of south west Western Australia used the older red tuberous roots (after cooking) to treat diarrhoea.

Geraniumfrom 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.

solanderi – named for Daniel Solander (1733 – 1782), famous friend and fellow adventurer of Joseph Banks. Solander first described it in 1800 as Geranium
pilosum, from a specimen found in New Zealand. However, the name was illegal (having already been used in 1787 by Antonio José Cavanilles). It was renamed in 1965 by botanist Roger Carolin, honouring Solander.

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

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

Greening Australia – Geranium solanderi profile page             https://www.greeningaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/FACT-SHEET_Geranium-solanderi.pdf

Wikipedia – Geranium solanderi profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geranium_solanderi


By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.