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Geraniaceae Juss., nom. cons.
the geranium or cranesbill family
The name is derived from the Greek γερανος (geranos), a crane. Members of the family usually have blue, mauve, red, pink or white (not yellow) flowers with 5 petals. It is the fruits that give this family its name. In most cases, the fruit is a schizocarp with 5 one-seeded mericarps, each tapering from the apex to the base, and joined together in a circle with a beak-like stylar column in the centre. The fruit opens explosively when the seeds are ripe, and casts the mericarps away from the parent plant. Each mericarp takes a strip from the style to acquire a usually hygroscopically active awn, that twists into a corkscrew. The awns uncoil when wet, and contract when dry, and the pointed mericarp is thus driven into the ground, and secured with retrorse hairs (barbs).
Pelargonium sp. - Geranium
Pelargonium graveolens - Rose Geranium
Illustration from Flora Batava by Janus Kops (volume 5) 1828, via Wikimedia Commons
Page last updated 15th Octover 2014