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All In The Plant Family - The Geraniums


 Wednesday, May 12
Geranium Family

I never see a geranium that I don’t think about candy, chocolate, or floral liquor. Great Tante Julienne was a feisty lover of the weird and unusual, and delicacies made from geraniums were her specialties. When you came to visit her, you could expect to find geranium laced candy, chocolate, or floral liquor — all there for the taste bud’s guaranteed shock value.

Personally, I preferred the taste of some of her other edible flowers and truly enjoyed her many cakes that were decorated with flowers. However, since she often entertained in her garden, the real excitement was in the scents of her geraniums. These days Geraniums are prized not only for their garden beauty, their scents, but also as sources of essential oils.

Some of the charming scents found in the Geraniums are:


  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Lemon
  • Mint
  • Nutmeg
  • Pineapple
  • Rose

The Geranium, so popular as a house plant is a native of South Africa. Its thick stems and irregular flowers are quite different form our native geraniums. Our commonest native species, found over the Eastern United States and Canada, as far west as Manitoba, has five regular, light-purple petals and beautiful deeply cut leaves.

Our geraniums are sometimes called Crane’s Bills or Stork’s Bills because the pistil develops into a long pointed fruit that recalls the bill of a long-beaked bird.  Another geranium family member, Herb Robert, is a smaller plant with lavender or rose flowers.

Three families closely related to the geraniums are the Balsams, often called “touch-me-nots” from the way the ripe fruits fling their seeds when touched, then the Flaxes (from which linen is obtained), and the Oxalis family.

Then there are the yellow, white and violet species of Oxalis are also called wood sorrel or sour grass. Taste a leaf and you’ll know why. Three leaflets at the end of each leafstalk make Oxalis look like a delicate clover, but the flowers with five regular petals, are very different from clover blossoms. 

However, had you been to my Tante Julienne‘s house, you might have enjoyed sour candies made from them. Three leaflets at the end of each leafstalk make oxalis look like a delicate clover, but the flowers with five regular petals, are very different from clover blossoms.

How To Recognize This Plant Family


  • The Geranium always has symmetrical flowers.
  • The Geranium fruit capsule has five cells in which there is one seed each.
  • The Geranium fruit capsule has a joined column in the center of the old flower.
  • The Geranium’s leaves are long, palmately cleft and broadly circular.
  • Geranium leaves are often covered by fine hairs.
  • Geranium flowers are bisexual.
  • Geraniums are often confused with Pelargonium plant family.
  • The Geranium’s true plant family name is Geraniaceae.
  • Most Geraniums are herbs.

If You’d Like To Know More About Geraniums

Common Yellow Oxalis

Scented Geraniums

Scented Geranium Specialists

Pelagonium Chocolate Mint Geranium

Edible Flowers