Pelargonium australe

Austral Stork’s-bill

Family: Geraniaceae

Pelargonium australe is a herbaceous perennial to 0.5 m tall by about 0.5 m wide often forming colonies in the wild.

It is a very widespread species, with a complex distribution; growing very close to the coast in NSW, from the Victorian border, northwards along most of the coastal stretch to about Taree, after which it  tends to only be found inland; and then stretching to the far inland areas, but mainly in the south of the state only (north to around Ivanhoe; and only as far west as Coonamble in the northern parts). It grows over virtually all of Victoria. It only just creeps into Queensland, found commonly around Stanthorpe and a few records near Brisbane and Towoomba. It grows in the south-eastern parts of South Australia, from Mt Gambier, west to around Fowlers Bay. It is found comonly along the south coast and there a few records along the west coast of Western Australia, from the border with South Australia, north to around Geraldton. It is found over most of Tasmania and the islands of Bass Strait. It also grows on Lord Howe Island.

It grows on sand dunes close to the coast in open dune scrub and shrubland. Inland, it grows on rocky cliffs and ridges. often associated with sandy soils.

Pelargonium spp. can present with simple leaves or heavily dissected leaves verging on compound. They can also be alternate or opposite. In this species, they are clearly simple and opposite, on a long thin petiole to 13 cm; the lamina is ovate to circular, to 9 cm long and wide, and strongly lobed with 5 to 7 lobes, with the margins having teeth as well as undulations; hairy to glabrous and mid to light green in colour;

Pelargonium spp. have geranium-like 5-merous flowers, with 5 sepals and petals. Three of the petals are typically larger than the other two (a useful identification tip for this genus); with 10 stamens and 1 carpel; with flowers produced in cymose umbels, elevated on long peduncles. In this species, flowers are procued in umbels of up to 12, on a peduncle to 12 cm long; each flower on a pedicel to 2 cm long; flowers about 15 mm across and pink in colour, procued over most of the warmer months.

The fruit of Pelargonium is a schizocarp which splits into individual mericarps. In this species, the mericarps are about 15 mm long and very narrow as well as hairy.

In the garden

Author’s notes:

Pelargonium australe is a recent addition to my garden in the northern Sydney suburb of Westleigh.

My plant is growing in a thin layer of light topsoil over a clay sub soil and receives little additional watering.

It is hardy in a range of soils. Pelargonium australe would also make an attractive container plant. It is well worth considering for any garden.

Very hardy once established. Soil need only be reasonably drained. Can be planted in full sun to part-shade.


Pelargonium australe strikes readily from cuttings and I have found that I always have a few self-seeded plants growing around the parent plant.

Other information

Pelargonium and Geranium are cloasley related and are often confused. However, they do differ from each other by the shape of the flowers, with Pelargoniums having two larger petals while Geraniums have petals all of similar size.

Pelargonium is a large genus of about 250 species, occurring in temperate regions – mostly in Afgrica and Australia. Australia has 11 species, 6 endemic and 4 naturalised, found in all states and territories. NSW currently has 4 native species and 4 introduced species.

This species can likely regenerate from the seed bank aftre fire.

Pelargonium – from the Greek pelargos (πελαργός) – referring to a “stork” (bird), referring to the “stork-like-bill” appearance of the fruits.

australe – Latin for “Southern”, referring to it global distribution.

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

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

Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Pelargonium australe profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/pelargonium-australe

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke