Pelargonium graveolens

rose geranium


Pelargonium graveolens

L'Hér. 1792

pronounced: pell-ar-GO-nee-um grav-ee-OH-lenz

(Geraniaceae — the geraniumfamily)

common name: rose geranium

Pelargonium comes from the Greek πελαργος (pelargos), the stork, referring to the shape of the seed heads; graveolens is Latin for ‘strong-smelling’.

This species is indigenous to various parts of southern Africa. It is a strong-growing shrub with jagged triangular leaves that have a distinct lemon-rose scent, and bears pale pink flowers with purple spots.

It has great importance in the perfume industry, being cultivated on a large scale, the foliage being distilled for its scent. Cultivars of the species have a wide variety of scents, including rose, citrus, mint, coconut and nutmeg, as well as various fruits. The rose-scented cultivars are the most important commercially. ‘Rose Geranium’ is sometimes used to refer to Pelargonium incrassatum , which has the synonym Pelargonium roseum, the herbal name. Commercial vendors often list the source of geranium or rose geranium essential oil as Pelargonium graveolens, regardless of which plant it comes from. Pelargonium distillates and absolutes are commonly sold as ‘geranium oil’, which is used for aromatherapy and massage therapy applications, and is sometimes used to supplement or adulterate the more expensive rose oils.

Other applications include:

      • insect repellant;
      • cake ingredient (flowers and leaves);
      • jam and jelly ingredient (flowers and leaves);
      • ice cream and sorbet ingredient (flowers and leaves);
      • salad ingredient (flowers), and
      • sugar flavouring (leaves).

Medically, it has relaxant, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, and is also used to control bleeding.

Pelagoniums act as food plants for a number of Lepidoptera caterpillars, including:

      • the Cotton Cutworm Spodoptera litura;
      • the Cotton Bollworm Helicoverpa armigera;
      • the Black-bodied Browntail Moth Euproctis melanosoma;
      • the Geranium Plume Moth Sphenarches anisodactylus;
      • the Green Looper Chrysodeixis eriosoma; and
      • the moth Orgyia australis.


Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographed at Picnic Bay 2010
Page last updated 6th March 2019