Biological Flora of Britain and Ireland: Geranium pratense: Geranium pratense: No. 305

Richard G. Jefferson*, Markus Wagner, Elizabeth Sullivan, Irina Tatarenko, Duncan B. Westbury, Paul Ashton, Lucy Hulmes

*Corresponding author for this work

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This account presents information on all aspects of the biology of Geranium pratense L. (Meadow Crane's‐Bill). The main topics are presented within the standard framework of the Biological Flora of Britain and Ireland : distribution, habitat, communities, responses to biotic factors, responses to environment, structure and physiology, phenology, floral and seed characters, herbivores and disease, history and conservation. Geranium pratense is a perennial gynodioecious forb of neutral grassland. In Britain and Ireland, it is particularly abundant on roadside verges, railway embankments, the margins of watercourses and woodland rides. It is generally intolerant of grazing and is absent or scarce in livestock‐grazed grassland. Geranium pratense is widespread in England, Wales and Scotland but is scarce in Ireland. It has an extensive native range in Europe and Asia, extending eastwards to Russia, north‐western China and Mongolia. It has been widely introduced to new sites within its native range and has been introduced to Canada, the USA and New Zealand. Geranium pratense usually occurs on free‐draining soils but also infrequently where drainage is impeded. The soils are often nutrient‐rich and weakly acidic to weakly alkaline. The underlying geology is usually non‐acidic sedimentary rocks or superficial deposits. Geranium pratense is protandrous and is pollinated by various insects of the orders Hymenoptera, Diptera and Lepidoptera, particularly bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies and butterflies. Eleven species of phytophagous insect have been recorded on G. pratense in Britain and Ireland. Geranium pratense has little or no capacity for vegetative spread. Primary seed dispersal is ballistic and seeds may be flung over distances of up to several metres. The species has a transient seed bank, that is germination typically takes place in the winter and spring after seed production, after the physically dormant seeds have become permeable. Seedling establishment is higher in vegetation‐free gaps than in undisturbed grassland vegetation. There has been no significant change in its distribution between the late 1950s and 2019, although since 2000, it has expanded its range, mainly via introductions, in northern and western Scotland, west Wales and in Ireland. Alien sites have increased markedly since the 1960s due to introductions from wildflower seed sowing and spread from gardens.
Original languageEnglish
Article number305
Pages (from-to)2750-2780
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Ecology
Issue number12
Early online date18 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2023


  • genetic variation
  • gynodioecy
  • conservation
  • grassland
  • physical seed dormancy
  • climate change
  • habitat niche requirements
  • Plant Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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