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Wholesale Cranesbill

Geranium maculatum
plant overview
astringent cranesbill

Cranesbill is a member of the geranium tribe that occurs naturally in Europe, Canada and the U.S. Also known as Old Maid's Nightcap, Shameface and Chocolate Flower, this hairy woodland herb is harvested for its root just before flowering in early spring. When dried, cranesbill root is typically tinctured or decocted to produce extracts. The astringent qualities of the root is owing to the presence of various tannins and gallic acid.

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A Bit of Botany

a little botanical information on cranesbill

Geranium maculatum is a woodland perennial plant of the Geraniaceae family. It grows to 60 cm tall, producing upright usually unbranched stems and flowers in spring to early summer. The leaves are palmately lobed with five or seven deeply cut lobes, 10–12.5 cm broad, with a petiole up to 30 cm long arising from the rootstock. They are deeply parted into three or five divisions, each of which is again cleft and toothed. The flowers are 2.5–4 cm diameter, with five rose-purple, pale or violet-purple (rarely white) petals and ten stamens; they appear from April to June in loose clusters of two to five at the top of the stems. The fruit capsule, which springs open when ripe, consists of five cells each containing one seed joined to a long beak-like column 2–3 cm long (resembling a crane's bill) produced from the center of the old flower. The rhizome is long, and 5 to 10 cm thick, with numerous branches. The rhizomes are covered with scars, showing the remains of stems of previous years growth. When dry it has a somewhat purplish color internally. Plants go dormant in early summer after seed is ripe and dispersed.

common names & nomenclature
The fruit capsule resembles a crane’s bill, thus the common name cranesbill.

Also known as:
spotted cranesbill, wild cranesbill, storksbill, alum root, alum bloom, chocolate flower, shameface, old maid's nightcap, dove's foot, crow foot, spotted geranium, wood geranium, wild geranium

Cranesbill, the astringent woodland herb

Where in the World

habitat and range for cranesbill

Geranium maculatum is native to eastern North America, from southern Manitoba and southwestern Quebec south to Alabama and Georgia and west to Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Cultivation & Harvesting

considerations for growing and harvesting cranesbill

Cranesbill grows in moist woods, wet rocks and in swamps, thickets and meadows. Prefers sunny locations but can grow in part shade.

Cranesbill grows best in a rich, fertile soil.

Sow seeds in spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, transplant the seedlings into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division can be done in spring or autumn. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent locations, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Harvest the root of the cranesbill before the plant begins to flower then cut the root into small pieces and dry thoroughly.

Store dried cranesbill root in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

The Rest of the Story

cranesbill history, folklore, literature & more

The active ingredients that lend the plant astringent and hemostyptic (anti-bleeding) properties are gallotannins, which are found in a concentration of up to 30% in the root and up to 28% in the leaf.

for educational purposes only

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

please be advised: 
Before making any changes to your diet you should always consult with your doctor,
especially if you are pregnant, nursing or have existing conditions.