Geranium Maculatum. Spotted Crane's-Bill.

Botanical name: 

Table 13. Geranium maculatum. Common Crane's-bill. Alum-root. Racine a Becquet. Sometimes in Lancaster-county (Penn.) and in Kentucky, Crow-foot.

Genus Geranium.

Germ. Der Storchschnabel; das Schnabel kraut. Gefleckter StorchschnabeL
Dutch. Oijevaarsbek; Kraanhals.
Dan. Storkenaeb.
Swed. Storknäf.
Engl. The crane's bill.
Fran. Le geranion; la geraine; bec de grue, ou de cicogne.
Ital. Geranio; becco di gru.
Span. Jerenio; pico de ciguena; hierba del pico; pico de grulla; aguja; (pamplilla).
Port. Geranio; agulha; Bico de grou; bico de cégonha.
Russ. Schuratelinei nos.
Pol. Pychawiec, zorawie nozki.
Bohem. Capjnusek, capu nos.
Ukrain. Karvamozenzel.
Hung. Daru orru fu.

Geranium Maculatum. L.
Sp. Pl. 955.
Gron. Virg. 101.
Burm. Geran. 17.
Mill. Dict. n. 14.
Cavaiv Diss. 4. p. 213. t. 86. f. 2.
Dill. Elth. 158. t. 131. f. 159.
Houttuyn Lin. Pfl. Syst. 8. p. 415.
Mich. Fl.
Boreali-Am vol. 2. p 38.
Bigelow. Med. Bot. p. 84.
Muhl. Cat. Pl. Am. Sep. p 62.
Pursh. Fl. Am. Sep. vol. 2. p. 448.
Barton's Collections, &c. part 1. p. 8, 45. part 2. p. 1.
Barton's Prodr Fl. Ph.p. 69.
Nuttall, Gen. Am. Plants.
Coxe's Am. Disp. ed. 3d. p. 343.
Thatcher's Disp. ed. 2d. p. 224.
Ait. Hort. Kew. ed. 2d. vol. 4. p. 188.
Willd. Sp. Plant, tom. 3, part 1 p. 705.


(Tourn. L'her. Vent.) Gen. Plant. ed. Schreb. n. 1118.

Cat. 5-phyllus. Cor. 5-petala regularis. Nect. glandulae 5-melliferae, basi longiorum nlamentorum adnata:, Arilli 5-monospermi aristati ad basin receptaculi rostrati; aristis nudis simplicibus (nee spiralibus nee barbatis).
Nat. Syst. Juss. Gerania. Classis XIII. Ordo XIII.
Geraniceae, St. Hillaire.

Geranium, T. L. * Pelargonium, Burm. * Geranion, Geraine. Calix 5-phyllus aut 5-partitus. Petala 5 aequalia aut in-aequalia. Staminum filamenta 10, basi in urceolum aut tubum coalita, nunc omnia antherifera, nunc quaedam sterilia Germen modo basi 5-glandulosum, modo pedicello insidens fistuloso intra florem hinc hianti. Fnictus dehiscens in capsulas 5, ovatas aut basi acutas, 1-2-spermas, aristatas aristis stylo persistenti adnatis, a basi ad apicem dehiscentibus una cum capsulis; corculum lobis a medio reflexis. Herbse aut sufirutices; folia alterna, aut opposita; pedunculi fiorum 1-2-flori aut multiflori. Corolla in Europaeis speciebus regularis admittit calicem 5-phyllum ant 5-partitum, germen basi 5-glandulosum, glandulas petalis alternas, caulem herbaceum, folia saepius opposita & pedunculos axillares, in 1-2-floris stamina omnia fertilia & capsulas ovatas aristis supra revolutis, in multifloris stamina 5 sterilia fk capsulas basi acutas aristis tortilibus. Corolla in Africanis irregularis quasi papilionacea, petalis 2 superioribus erecto-reflexis, intra calicem 5-partitum non polyphyllum, profert germen non basi glandulosum, staminum filamenta 7 aut pauciora antherifera cseteraque sterilia, capsulas basi acutas aristis tortilibus barbatis, pedicellum floris hinc nstuloso-cavum intra petala & extra stamina apertum, caulem sscpe suffrutescentem, folia plerumque alterna, pedunculos saepius multifloros & foliis oppositos. Numerosissimas D. Cavanilles in accurata Monographia nitidis expressas iconibus recensuit species generis in posterum dividendi, Africanis ad Pelargonium Rurmanni reject'.s. Ex ipso congener Grielum L. 5-stylum, praeterea simillhnum Europxis: an idem posthac restituendum ?
Juss. Gen. Planted. 1789. p. 268.
Nat. Ord. Lin. Gruinales.
Class Monadelphia. Ordo. Decandria. Lin. Syst.

Gen. Ch, Cat, Perianth inferior, of five ovate, acute, concave, permanent leaves. Cor. regular, of five large, obovate or obcordate, equal, spreading petals. Nectary five glands at the base of the germen, alternate with the petals, Siam. Filaments 1Q, awl-shaped, recurved, united at the base int» a small cup, five alternate ones longest, all shorter than the petals; anthers oblong, versatile, five of them occasionally abortive, Pist. Germen superior, with five furrows, beaked; style central, awl-shaped, longer than the stamens, permanent; stigmas five, oblong, reflexed. Peric. Capsules five, aggregate, membranous, globose, lateral, separating at their inside, each attached upwards to a long, linear, flat, pointed, rigid, smooth awn, at length elastically recurved, adhering by its point to the summit of the style. Seeds solitary, lateral, roundish, their surfaces smooth 01 dotted.
Ess. Ch. Calix of five leaves. Petals five. Nectariferous glands five. Fruit beaked, of five aggregate capsules, each tipped with a long, recurved, naked awn.
Obs. This genus, as above defined, contains only the Geraiiiq columbina of Linnams, or what arccommonly called European Geraniums, or Crane's-bills, bearing but one or two flowers on a stalk. (See Erodium ) Thus it is adopted by Willdenow, who has 39 species, 13 of which are natives of Britain. They are tolerably naturally distributed into three sections, Ency.

Geranium maculatum, erectum, retrorsum pubescens, caule dichotomo, foliis oppositis 3-5 partitis incisis, summis sessilibus, pedunculis elongatis bifloris, petalis obovatis. Willd. Sp. pi. 3. p. 705.

Geranium maculatum, perenne, retrorsum pubens: caulibus erectis, opposite diphyllis: foliis 3-5 partitis. pedunculis elongatis, bifloris: petalis obovalibus. Mich. Fl. Boreaji-Am. vol. 2. p. 39.


Geranium Noveboracense, Coelln Amocn. Acad. vol. 4. p. 522.
Geranium caule erecto herbaceo, foliis oppositis quinquepartitis incisi$, summis sessilibus, petalis integerrimis rotundatis. Cavan. Diss.
Geranium batrachioides Americanum maculatum floribus obsolete cceruleis. Dillenius elth.

Descriptio Uberior.

Herba tota hirsuta. Radix gibbosa, horizontalis, perennis. Caules erect! sub-bipcdales, furcati seu dichwtomi, pilis deflexis. Folia profunde quinquepartita, undique pilosa, lobis irregulariter incisedentatis; radicalia longe pet'olata; caulinia nonnunquam sessilia. Stipulse membranaceae. Pedunculi elongati biflores. Flores magni purpureo-rosei petalis obovatis non emarginatis. Calices sparse pilosi margine ciliati et abrupte aristati. Capsulae hirsute, pilis patentibus. Habitat in sylvis umbrosis, et sepibus; etiam inter segetes, et ad margines agrorum; florens Junio et Julio.
Barton's Fl. Phil. MS.

The generic term Geranium, is derived from the Greek word γερανιος, a crane, from the fancied resemblance of its permanent style, to a crane's bill. The old genus contained a very extensive assemblage of plants. L'Heritier divided it into three different genera, viz. Er odium, Pelargonium, and Geranium, the latter characterised by the marks, mentioned at the head of this article, under the generic character.

Of the North American species of the genus, the maculatum is much the most common. This extremely pretty plant is much more worthy of cultivation than many of the exotic species of the same genus, so universally nurtured in our green-houses. The root is perennial, irregularly gibbous, and horizontal; and commonly of the size represented in the plate. It is brownish, mottled with green externally, and greenish-white within, becoming brittle or friable upon siccation; and then easily pulverisable in the mortar. From the root arise generally one stem and from four to eight root-leaves, supported by petioles from eight to ten inches in length. The stem is erect, terete; and this, as well as its divisions and peduncles, is of a sage-green colour, and thickly beset with reflexed hairs. At the height of six, eight, or ten inches from the ground, the stem becomes forked; and at the point of division is garnished by a pair of large leaves supported on petioles, less than half the length of those of the radical leaves. The leaves at the fork are commonly much the largest, and are frequent!)' inverted from their upright position either by a reflexion of the petiole, or a convolution of it, as represented in the plate. Those situated on the upper part of the stem, are furnished either with short petioles, or are entirely sessile. The peduncles arise from the dichotomous divisions of the stem, and uniformly bear two flowers, on short pedicels. The first fork or division of the stem, is furnished with four lanceolate, ciliate, membranaceous stipules, of a salmon colour. The upper stipules are linear, but also ciliated and of the same colour. The calix consists of five oval-lanceolate, ribbed, cuspidated segments, plumously ciliated on their outermost margins, and membranaceous on the other edges — occasionally three of the segments are ciliated on either edge, and the other two have membranaceous margins. Petals five in number, obovate and without notches at the apex. Stamens always ten, having glands at the base, and oblong convex deciduous anthers of a purple colour. Germ egg-shaped — style the length of the stamens at first, but afterwards becoming elongated, and persistent — stigmas five. The capsule contains five seeds, which, when matured, are scattered by the elasticity of the awns arrayed along the permanent style. The plant is extremely common in many parts of the United States, having a very extensive geographical range. It is abundant in the neighbourhood of this city, and I have found it equally common in Jersey, the counties of Lancaster and York, in Pennsylvania, and in the neighbourhood of Baltimore. But it will be found plentifully from Canada to the southern boundary of the United States. It inhabits copices, hedges, the borders of damp woods, and the skirts of fields, generally preferring low grounds, though I have seen it on high hills. Its common height is from twelve to eighteen inches: but in very favourable situations it grows to the stature of two and an half feet, and is then one of the most beautiful of our native plants.

Medical Properties.

The medicinal virtues of Geranium maculatum, reside, exclusively, in the root, and these entitle the plant to be ranged under the head of Astringents, in the Materia Medica. After saying thus much, it may seem unnecessary to enter into a detail of the particular diseases in which it has been recommended. The encomiastic and sometimes ill founded accounts of the medical virtues of a plant, which may have become the particular object of the favour or partiality of an individual physician, too frequently savour of empiricism; and in fact the exaggerated reports of the specific powers of medicines have not only done much harm, but never fail to bring into actual disrepute, the subject which they were designed to offer to favourable notice. To no one of our native plants is this remark more applicable, and of none more true, than the subject of this article. Not content with substantiating the claim which our native species of Geranium has to a rank in the Materia Medica. as a powerful astringent, those physicians and others who have been particularly led to the employment of it in the cure of diseases, have assigned to it specific powers, which it certainly does not possess. Having thus premised my opinion of the real and reputed virtues of this plant, I shall proceed to state the different diseases in which it has been recommended.

In the fourth volume of the Amoenitates Academics, Coelln first mentioned the medical virtues of this plant; and he there tells us, on the authority of Cadwallader Colden, that it was used in dysenteries. "Geranium Nov-eboracense (maculatum); decoctum " radicis hujusplantse ad dysenteriam nostratibus in usu est." [Specifica Canadensium, No. 30.] And Shoepf says: "Radix leniteradstringens, vulneraria habetur et ad Dysenteriam laudator."

The practice of using a decoction of the Geranium in dysentery. is still very common among the inhabitants of our western mountains; and this is done upon a knowledge of its astringency, for it is in that part of our country that the plant is known familiarly by the name of Alum-root; and a decoction in milk was recommended by the late Processor Barton, in cholera infantum. Whether the practice of using the astringent decoction in dysentery, can ever be admissible, is. 1 think, extremely doubtful; and whether it has ever actually done good in that complaint, is not less problematical. It is not unlikely that in diarrhsea it may be useful: and this disease is not unfrequently called by the vulgar, dysentery. In all probability the powers ascribed to it of curing this last complaint, have been shewn by its exhibition in such cases of common diarrhoea as are cured by the use of astringents. Of its use in cholera infantum I know nothing, not having ever employed it in that complaint. But I am informed by Dr. Eberle, who is a native of, and has practised in, the county of Lancaster, that the common people of that county use it extensively in the treatment of diarrhsea and cholera infantum. And he tells me that he has himself used it in some cases of looseness of the bowels with as much efficacy as other astringents. The western Indians are said to esteem it as the most effectual of all their remedies for syphilis; and here too, probably, the mild local disease which we know can be cured by astringents, has been confounded under the name of the constitutional disease. An aqueous infusion of the root has been used as an injection for gonorrhoea, and probably with success. I have used it in some few cases last summer, and I must confess with as much success as is usual with astringents; though I ought not to conceal, that in those cases, (as in all that come under my care,) I used general depletion extensively, that is, by repeated purging with neutral salts. Dr. Barton hints that a saturated tincture, combined with white vitriol might be advantageously administered in cases of gleet. Surely however, this practice does not promise any great advantage. The common means of managing those obstinate discharges, seem much more likely to be efficacious — and should they not prove so, there is little reasonable expectation of doing good by the plant in question.

Dr. Barton's suggestion that this plant is entitled to the attention of physicians in the treatment of nephritis, is not, perhaps, entitled to much weight. This suggestion was principally grounded on the supposed efficacy of Geranium Robertianum (Herb Robert) in that complaint. [In North Wales this plant has acquired celebrity, as a remedy for nephritic complaints. A handful of the dried leaves is recommended to be infused as tea, and a tea-cup full taken occasionally. Mr. Watt. Wm. Withering, Esq.] Even admitting that this plant has performed all the effects attributed to it, it does not follow that the species under consideration would prove similarly beneficial; for the Geranium Robertianum, besides being an astringent, is obviously endued with other virtues, — it is powerfully diuretic.

It is said that Geranium maculatum has been collected in Kentucky, where it is called Crow-foot, for Tormentil (Tormentilla erecta) and vended in the shops of druggists there, for that article; whether fraudulently or from ignorance I know not, but most probably the latter, since the geranium bears no kind of resemblance to the tormentil. The fact I here mention must rest on the authority whence I derived it. [Barton's Collections.]

In apthous affections of the mouth, a decoction of the root of Crane's-bill, is a very useful and not unpleasant remedy. For this purpose I can confidently recommend it from my own experience, and the corresponding testimony of my friend Dr. Eberle, lately of Lancaster. He has informed me that in many cases he has used it with decided good effect. "I have frequently used a strong decoction of the root of the Geranium mac. in cynanche tonsilaris, and sometimes with evident advantage. As a gargle, in ulcers of the tongue and fauces, I have found it highly useful. — In a chronic and very obstinate case of apthaous ulceration of the mouth, after various articles had been used, by other physicians and myself, unsuccessfully, the patient was relieved by the use of gargles made of the root of this plant." [Mem. by John Eberle, M. D.] The plant may be exhibited in tincture, decoction, infusion, in substance (powdered) and in extract. The dose is from two to four drachms of the tincture; from fifteen to twenty-five, or even thirty five, grains of the powder; from twelve to fifteen grains of the extract: and when given in decoction, about one ounce, or an ounce and a half, may be boiled with half a pint of water. Of this decoction, one or two table spoonfuls may be given at a time. Of the infusion, a proportionate quantity.

Table XIII.

Fig. 1. Represents the lower portion of the plant.
2. The upper portion, cut asunder at the asterick; a similar part belonged in the specimen figured, to each of the cut stems.
3. The calix, stamens, and pistil, as they appear when the petals have fallen.
4. A petal separated.
5. The germ, pistil, and stamens, as they appear in the full blown flower.
6. The column of capsules and persistent style. When the fruit is mature, each capsule spontaneously separates from the others, and by the elasticity of the columnar supporting part, scatters the seeds.

Vegetable Materia Medica of the U.S. or Medical Botany, 1817 (Vol. I), 1818 (Vol. II), was written by William P. C. Barton, M. D.