Dove’s Foot Cranesbill

Geranium molle

  • Name also: Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill, Dovesfoot Cranesbill, Dove’s Foot Geranium, Dovefoot Geranium, Awnless Geranium
  • Family: Geranium Family – Geraniaceae
  • Growing form: Annual or overwintering herb. Overwintering individuals have a strong tap root.
  • Height: 5–25 cm (2–10 in.). Multiple stems, erect to ascending, branching, soft villous-pubescent, usually reddish.
  • Flower: Regular, 5–8 mm broad. Petals 5, pink, deeply notched at the apex. Sepals 5, narrowly membrane-edged, villous, shorter than petals. Stamens 10, all having anther. Congenitally fused, single style pistil with 5 stigmas. Flowers usually in axillary pairs, or terminal on shoots.
  • Leaves: Form base rosette, on the shoot singly or opposite. Rosette leaves long-stalked, stem leaves short-stalked with stipules. Leaf blade orbicular, palmately veined, 5–7-lobed up to half of leaf blade, leaf-lobes broad, often three-toothed.
  • Fruit: Five-parted schizocarp, beak-like tip, beak segments coil at dehiscence. Mericarps (carpels) wrinkled, hairless.
  • Habitat: Dry, rocky fields, cobbly soils, ruins, banks, waste places, yards.
  • Flowering time: June–September.

In Finland the distribution of dove’s foot cranesbill is restricted to the Åland Islands and the Turku Archipelago. In continental Finland the species is found only as a sporadic weed. It grows usually along roadsides, in pastureland, fields and other cultivated sites. The distribution has probably followed agriculture and other human activity already in former times. Currently the species is spreading efficiently through human activity, mostly as a contaminant mixed with clover seeds, and has traveled from its center of origin in Western Europe, the Mediterranean and the Near East to most of Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and the Far East. The yearly changes in population dynamics for this annual species is high. At times, dove’s foot cranesbill may be abundant, or then totally absent.

Dove’s foot cranesbill often forms mixed stands with its close relative, small-flowered cranesbill (G. pusillum). The stems and petioles of the latter have short hairs, while dove’s foot cranesbill has both long and short hairs. Small-flowered cranesbill’s petals are rather similar in length to its sepals, while those of dove’s foot cranesbill are somewhat longer. Furthermore, small-flowered cranesbill’s mericarps are smooth and the hairs adpressed, while the mericarps of dove’s foot cranesbill are wrinkled and hairless.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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Yosemite Home ” Yosemite Wildflower Guide ” Pink & Peach Wildflowers ” Dove’s Foot Geranium

Dove’s Foot Geranium (Geranium molle)

Aliases: Dovesfoot Cranesbill, Awnless Geranium, Crane’s Bill Geranium, Woodland Geranium

Family: Geranium (Geraniaceae)

Dove’s Foot Geranium is an invasive plant that’s slouching its way towards Yosemite along Highway 140. It’s a European native but fled to North America in murky circumstances, probably after a love affair gone wrong. It operates under a number of aliases (see above) and is not to be trusted.

It’s a very small flower, dwarfed by just about everything else, including its own leaves. It appears to have ten petals per flower, but if you look closely, you’ll see that it’s really just got five. Is it mocking us or just trying to compensate for something? Like most flowers, it’s not talking.

Blooms: March – April

Lifespan: Annual

Origins: Invasive (see distribution maps for California and US/Canada)

Geranium molle etymology: This translates as “soft crane’s bill.” Like you didn’t already know that.

This Photo: Along Highway 140 in the Merced River Canyon, late March

Other Resources: CalFlora · CalPhotos · USDA · Plants for a Future · Go Botany

Plant of the Week

Range map of Geranium maculatum. States are colored green where the species may be found.

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) whole plant. Photo by David D. Taylor.

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) close up. Photo by David D. Taylor.

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), close up of flower with pollen grains. Photo © 2010 David D. Taylor.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatumL.)

By David D. Taylor

Wild geranium is in the Geraniaceae (Geranium) family. This family contains about 650 species worldwide that range from small weedy herbs to succulent shrubs. They are found worldwide. The garden geranium, with roots in South Africa, is in this family, but belongs to a different genus (Pelargonium). About 50 species and varieties are known from North America and Hawai’i, including a number of introduced weeds. This geranium species is found from North and South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana east to the Atlantic with the exception of Florida. It is also known from Ontario and Quebec.

This geranium grows from thick rhizomes that are generally not far under the soil. Overtime, a single plant can produce a clump of 60 to 100 centimeters (2 to 3 feet) in diameter. Palmately dissected and toothed leaves emerge in late spring, are about 8 to 10 centimeters (3 to 4 inches) across, and long. They are on long petioles. Summer leaves are up to 15 cm (6 in) long and wide. Flowers are produced in small clusters at the end of long stems. They are rose-purple and 2.5 to 4 centimeters (1 to 1.5 inches) across. Flowers are present in April to July depending on location.

The crane’s-bill common name comes from the shape of the fruit before it releases seed. The fruit is usually composed five spring-loaded sections that form a long pointy structure, with a shape similar to a crane’s bill. When the fruits ripen, the sections spring upward and each section throws a seed away from the parent plant. Typical habitat is in rich forest, fields, meadows, and thickets. It is usually abundant in these locations. It makes a fine garden plant and it is available from many native plant nurseries. Never dig plants from the wild.

For More Information

  • PLANTS Profile – Geranium maculatum, wild geranium

Shiny geranium identification and control

Shiny geranium, also called shining crane’s bill, is a low-growing annual Eurasian plant that has escaped from gardens into wildlands, particularly in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, as well as a few locations in Washington State and California. It resembles other weedy geraniums such as herb robert (Geranium robertianum) and dovefoot (Geranium molle), and can quickly spread and overwhelm open to semi-open habitats. NOTE: Shiny geranium has shown up as a contaminant in nursery stock in Washington so care should be taken when purchasing plants from infested areas.

Legal status in King County, Washington

Shiny geranium is a Class B Noxious Weed in Washington State due to its limited distribution in parts of the state and the potential for significant impact to state resources should it spread to uninfested areas. The species is designated for required control in King County and is on the county’s list of Regulated Class B Noxious Weeds. Public and private landowners are required to control this plant when it occurs on their land.

This species is also on the Washington quarantine list (known as the prohibited plants list) and it is prohibited to transport, buy, sell, offer for sale, or to distribute plants or plant parts, seeds in packets, blends or “wildflower mixes” of this species, into or within the state of Washington.

For more information on noxious weed regulations and definitions, see Noxious weed lists and laws.
Because of the difficulty in distinguishing this plant from more widespread weeds, we recommend contacting the noxious weed program for a positive identification before removing. There are currently only a few records of this plant in King County. If you do find shiny geranium in King County, please contact us right away.

Identification (see below for more photos)

  • Low-growing annual with small, pink, 5-petaled flowers that grow in pairs on little stems
  • Leaves are shiny (especially later in the season), round to kidney-shaped with 5-7 lobes (that are themselves shallowly lobed)
  • Sepals (around the base of the flower) are keeled (stick out) with noticeable cross-ribs
  • Stems are reddish and not hairy, up to 20 inches tall
  • Bloom time is spring to late July
  • Resembles the common yard weed called dovefoot geranium (Geranium molle) but dovefoot’s petals are deeply notched (looks like the flowers have ten petals instead of five), and dovefoot is more fuzzy and the stems are less red

Habitat and impact

In the Pacific Northwest, shiny geranium is most abundant in oak woodlands and open grasslands in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, but is also found in other areas such as the Portland area, northern California, Bayview State Park in Skagit County, Washington and in southwest Washington. It is usually found in well-shaded woodlands and in forest openings. It is sometimes found growing with its close cousin herb robert, but seems to be more limited by shade than herb Robert. Although shiny geranium does well in disturbed sites such as roadsides, it can also invade into and overwhelm high quality native habitat, both in forests and open grasslands.

Growth and reproduction

Shiny geranium reproduces by seed and is pollinated by insects. The seeds form in capsules with a long pointy “beak” that gives the plant one of it’s common names crane’s bill. Seeds are forcefully ejected when ripe, helping it spread up as well as out from parent plants. This is probably why this plant can be found in crevices of tree trunks or spreading up hillsides. This plant can sometimes last two years but is most often an annual. Flowering is from April-May to July and seeds mature and spread usually from late June to early July. Germination is in late summer to early fall.


Prevention: Seeds of shiny geranium can be carried on shoes and vehicles, so special care should be taken to clean off after entering areas infested with this plant. Watch for new patches of this plant during bloom time (from April to July). Shiny geranium has been found as a hitchhiker in pots of other plants purchased from nurseries so make sure to inspect all new plantings for this weed, especially those with plants purchased from infested regions.

Small patches: Plants can be carefully hand-pulled or dug out before they are in seed, but take care to remove as much root and stem as possible to prevent plants from re-sprouting. Put all plant material in garbage bags not compost to prevent spreading it more.

Larger patches: Large areas can be controlled by covering with a deep layer of mulch, or for better results, cover with cardboard first, then a thick layer of wood chip mulch. If you have a site where herbicide can be used, plants can be sprayed before flowering (late March through April) with a broadleaf herbicide such as triclopyr (e.g. Brush B Gon). You can use a non-selective herbicide such as glyphosate (e.g. Roundup) but this kills grass and may result in a flush of new weed seedlings following spraying. Please refer to herbicide labels for site specific control information and refer to the PNW Weed Management Handbook for additional information on herbicide use. Make sure to follow all local and state rules about herbicide use and follow the herbicide label on the product you are using. Another alternative to spraying for large sites is burning with a propane-based burning tool several times each growing season (if burning is allowed in your location). No matter what method you use, follow up for several years to ensure successful eradication and depletion of the seed bank.

Additional information on shiny geranium

What to do if you find this plant in King County, Washington

Please notify us if you see shiny geranium growing in King County. Our program staff can provide the property owner or appropriate public agency with site-specific advice on how best to remove it. Also, because shiny geranium is not widely established in King County, we have an opportunity to stop it from spreading if we act quickly. We map all known locations of regulated noxious weeds such as shiny geranium in order to help us and others locate new infestations in time to control them.

Shiny geranium photos

Photos on this page courtesy of Ben Legler and Bruce Newhouse. Please do not use these images without permission from the photographers.

Wild Geranium

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Dove’s Foot Geranium – Geranium Molle


I hadn’t met this plant until 2012 and now I seem to have it everywhere in the garden. It seems like a very friendly plant with incredibly soft grey-green leaves reflected in its name molle (Lat) for softly-hairy, that are round and dissected into lobes which

Dove’s Foot Geranium – Mature plant

go about a quarter of the way towards the stalk. It has pretty pink flowers in pairs, each about 1cm in diameter and these are followed by fruits with a long beak that looks like a cranesbill. Its name Geranium is Greek for cranesbill. Dove’s foot geranium is an annual, grows in a rosette, is semi-prostrate, but can reach up to 30cm tall when in flower. Run your fingers up the stem which can be a reddish colour and you’ll feel the long soft white hairs growing there. The whole plant seems to be inviting us to touch it and feel its softness.

This plant likes to grow in lawns, cultivated areas, waste places and open pastures. It can grow in the sun but also likes shady places. I have them under a korokia hedge and in a south facing bed that gets no sun during winter.

Young Dove’s Foot Geranium plant

Dove’s Foot Geranium Flowers

Nutritional Qualities

I haven’t found the exact nutritional qualities for Dove’s Foot Geranium yet but I am including the leaves in my smoothies as I know they will contain minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, fibre, and chlorophyll without knowing the specific makeup of this plant.

In my research I looked up Wikipedia and came across this excerpt from Nicholas Culpeper written in 1652 about the healing qualities of Dove’s Foot Geranium which are substantial. I added the words in italics. What an amazing plant!

“It is found by experience to be singularly good for wind cholic, as also to expel the stone and gravel in the kidneys. The decoction thereof in wine, is an excellent good cure for those that have inward wounds, hurts, or bruises, both to stay the bleeding, (astringent qualities) to dissolve and expel the congealed blood, and to heal the parts, as also to cleanse and heal outward sores, ulcers and fistulas; and for green wounds, many do only bruise the herb, and apply it to the places, and it heals them quickly (vulnerary qualities). The same decoction in wine fomented to any place pained with the gout, or to joint-aches, or pains of the sinews, gives much ease (anodyne qualities). The powder or decoction of the herb sinews, gives much ease. The powder or decoction of the herb taken for some time together, is found by experience to be singularly good for ruptures and burstings in people, either young or old.”

Culpeper, Nicholas, The English physitian: or an astrologo-physical discourse of the vulgar herbs of this nation. London : Peter Cole, 1652

Botanical name: Geranium molle

Family: Geraniaceae

General Information: Doves-foot cranesbill is an annual weed that prefers dry soils and is common on lawns throughout the UK.


  • Leaf: The leaves of doves-foot cranesbill are rounded in shape, slightly hairy and consists of 5-7 individual lobes.
  • Flower: Cranesbill flowers from April to September. They can vary in colour from light pink to purple.
  • Roots: Doves-foot cranesbill has a deep, fibrous root system (see image below).

Preferred habitat: Doves-Foot Cranesbill can be found in a variety of soil types but prefers free draining soils that are low in nutrients.

Control: Hand weeding may be practical if there are only a few plants. For a large infestation a selective herbicide will have to be used. Use a selective weed killer containing a mixture of Dicamba and Mecoprop, a repeat application about 6 weeks later will almost be certainly be needed to effectively control this weed.

Doves-foot Cranesbill Images (click image to enlarge)

More images and free downloads of doves-foot cranesbill

Doves-foot cranesbill is generally more confined to waste areas and roadside verges than on lawns.

Doves-foot cranesbill is an annual weed that is common on bare areas, waste ground, hedgerows and occasionally in turf. It is sometimes called doves-foot geranium.

The leaves form from a basal rosette and are round – kidney shaped, each has 5 -7 leaflets which are deeply cut, often with each leaflet having 3 lobes. They are very soft with a hairy surface.

The bright pink flowers have 5 petals, each petal being notched, sometimes giving the appearance of 10 petals. They can be seen from May to September
Doves-foot cranesbill is happiest on dry, undernourished soils, especially where the soil is exposed.

Cultural control

  • Hand weed individual plants taking care to remove the whole weed.
  • Encourage a healthy lawn with good lawn care practices to prevent weed from invading in the first place.

Chemical control
Doves-foot cranes bill is a difficult weed to control using chemicals. In almost all cases more than one application will be needed for effective control.

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