Pale Yellow Wolfsbane

A member of the geranium family, Herb Robert is also unkindly called Stinky Robert. Not the most fragrant flower in Nature, it tends to lurk in rather dingy places – shaded spots in hedges, neglected gardens, waste places, and coastal thickets – in soil rich in organic matter.

Meat soaked in the same extract was used to poison wolves, and it is for this reason that the common names for Wolfsbane in many languages mean ‘wolf poison’.

People in later life ascribed to the plant the power of driving away demons – it was known as fuga daemonum. in Latin – and looked upon it as a form of protection against evil spirits during illness.

The drug obtained from this plant has astringent properties as well as a binding and mildly diuretic action. In the old days pharmacists listed it under the name Rostrum ciconiae (Stork’s Bill), descriptive of the splitting fruit of geraniums.

Pale Yellow Wolfsbane is a rare plant of open groves, hornbeam/oak and beech/oak woodlands, particularly on limestone soils. However, in Britain today it is largely grown in gardens.

The fruit of geraniums is long and beaked. When ripe, it splits and separates into five sections, releasing the seeds to be dispersed far from the parent plant. Later, all that remains on the plant are spiralled partitions and a long flower axis, like the frame of an old-fashioned umbrella which has lost its cover.

A garden planning tip is that the plants in a wild garden must be robust in order to withstand the competition with the weeds.

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