Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Common Storksbill - weed or wildflower?
I snapped these pictures of a pretty little plant yesterday morning. It was growing out of the cracks between the paving-bricks (if that's the right term) on the path in front of the door of Holy Trinity church here in North Ormesby. I first spotted it growing there last year and when I pointed it out to a friend that I was with, she said "we call those weeds". I don't really like the word weed, and particularly when applied to a lovely little plant like this. I prefer to think of it as a wild-flower.
It is called Common Storksbill and the name comes from the shape of the fruits, which have long pointy beaks, supposedly like that of a stork (which doesn't deliver babies, by the way). It is quite a common plant of dry grasslands, and sandy ground, both inland and near the coast.
There are many different species of Storksbill, but Common Storksbill, as the name implies, is the commonest one in the UK. They share this shape of fruit with two other closely related groups of plants - the Cranesbills (the true Geraniums) and the plants that most people think of as Geraniums, which are actually Pelargoniums. They are all in the family Geraniaciae, but are in three separate genera (the plural of genus).
The scientific name for this species is Erodium cicutarium. The first bit - Erodium - (the genus name) comes from the Greek word 'erodios' meaning a heron (bringing a third type of bird into the story of this family). The second bit - cicutarium - (the species name), comes from an old Latin name for Hemlock (the poisonous herbaceous plant, not the North American tree), and it was given this name because the leaves are apparently similarly shaped, although they don't look that similar to me.
On a final note about names - in North America, where this plant was introduced from Europe in the 18th century, it is known as Redstem Filaree, although I haven't been able to find out the origin of the name Filaree.