ORRIN MORRIS: Cranesbill used to treat stomach ailments, wounds

CAROLINA CRANESBILL Geranium masculatum

CAROLINA CRANESBILL Geranium masculatum

In the tradition of Hebrew and Christian literature, it was on the third day of creation that God said “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed… and it was so. And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind… and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:11-12).

Ponder the statement “and God saw that it was good.” It is from contemplating that phrase that I have learned to study the magnificent assortment of wildflowers our Creator has provided for our pleasure.

The plant we examine today is one of those delightful specimens to find.


Geranium masculatum

The cranesbill has several names including wild geranium, crowfoot and alum root. The fruit is similar to that of the domesticated geranium; that is, the seed develops a long pointed pod that resembles the bill of a crane, as illustrated.

The plant stands 1 to 2 feet high and the lavender flower is about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. There are five petals and 10 stamens. The leaves are shaped like a hand spread wide. Thus this wildflower could be given the modern term “high five” since there are five petals and five distinct parts to each leaf.

Native Americans used young leaves of this plant as greens. According to “The Herb Book” by John Lust, every part of the plant contains tannin, which was used as an astringent in medicine.

A tea made of the leaves was used to treat diarrhea, dysentery and bleeding ulcers. The powdered root was used as a coagulant on wounds.

When the seeds drop from the elongated case, they “crawl.” Each seed has a tail, called an awn, that curls inward as it dries and extends strait when it is moistened. This causes the seed to be propelled gently until it drops into a hole of a tiny crevice.

Botanists speculate that this is a survival feature so that the species can avoid doves, quail, chipmunks and other seed-eaters, according to Jack Sanders’ “Hedgemaids and Fairy Candles, The Lives and Lore of North American Wildflowers.”

The preferred habitat is woods, thickets and meadows, but some plants have been potted for household display. The cranesbills in middle Georgia bloom in April and May, but in the north Georgia mountains blossoms can be seen as late as July.

God’s creation included humankind. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6).

That creative breath continues today with each new birth, and I have the unique privilege of observing children specially endowed by God with artistic ability. I am amazed by their spirit of creativity, “made in the image of God” (Gen.1:27).

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.