Winter-annual or biennial herb up to 40 cm tall Stem: very short at first, then becoming much-branched with branches loosely ascending or spreading, and hairy throughout. Leaves: alternate, short-stalked, hairy, 5 - 10 cm long, longer than wide, pinnately compound and fern-like. The overwintering leaves form a rosette. Inflorescence: axillary, long-stalked, umbel-like cluster of two to eight, small (under 2 cm diameter), short-stalked (1 - 2 cm), radially symmetric, pinkish to pink-purple flowers. Sepals: five, alternate with petals, green, strongly veined, 5 - 7 mm long, fairly oblong but with an abruptly sharp pointed tip ending in a short bristle. Petals: five, pinkish, 0.5 - 0.8 cm long, inversely egg-shaped with narrowed base, widest at or beyond the middle, and rounded at tip. Stamens: ten in two series, but only inner five fertile with developed anthers. The remaining five sterile stamens are reduced to scales. Pistil: with a single, deeply five-lobed, superior ovary; one long, slender style column; and five short stigmas. Fruit: five, hairy, 2 - 4 cm long, single-seeded, nutlike segments per flower, each sharply pointed at base and ending in a long, spirally coiled (at least lower half), and hairy beak. Each fruit segment (nutlike base with beak) retains the seed inside, but separates completely from the style column and rest of the old flower parts. Leaflets: hairy, stalkless, 1 - 2.5 cm long, egg-shaped or oblong in outline but deeply divided into irregular segments.
Similar species: Erodium cicutarium is somewhat similar to species of Geranium, but members of that genus always have opposite, palmately-lobed stem leaves, flowers normally in pairs, ten fertile stamens, rounded bases on the nutlike fruit segments, hairless beaks that coil up and remain attached to the style column (also with the nutlike segment attached), and bumpy or ridged seeds that are ejected from the fruit. Another species of Erodium that can also be found in North America is E. moschatum. This species escapes less frequently than E. cicutarium, but that species can be distinguished by its short-stalked leaflets that are less deeply cleft or only merely toothed, and the sepals lack terminal bristles.
Flowering: April to November
Habitat and ecology: Introduced from the Mediterranean area of Europe, an occasional weed of waste areas or cultivated grounds.
Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native
Author: The Field Museum
Winter-annual or biennial; stems at first anthesis very short, with the lvs mostly basal, later diffusely branched, to 4 dm; lvs elongate-oblanceolate, the principal ones pinnately compound with several sessile, ovate or oblong, deeply and irregularly cleft pinnae each 1-2.5 cm; infls long-peduncled, 2-8-fld, the pedicels 1-2 mm; sep 5-7 mm, mucronate or shortly awned; pet off- pink, 5-8 mm; anther-bearing filaments without teeth; fr 2-4 cm; 2n mostly = 40 in ours. Native of the Mediterranean region, now established as a common weed throughout most of the U.S. Apr.-Sept.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Heil et al 2015, Morton Arboretum vPlants, USDA GRIN
Duration: Annual Nativity: Non-Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Winter annual herb, up to 40 cm tall but usually less than 10 cm in our region, from a slender taproot; stems few to several, initially erect or decumbent and becoming prostrate, often reddish with swollen nodes; herbage glandular-villous. Leaves: Overwintering as a basal rosette, but leaves also opposite along the stems during the growing season. Leaves short-petiolate; blades 3-14 cm long, bipinnatifid (twice pinnately cleft) with fine feathery divisions. Flowers: Pink-purple, in long-stalked, umbel-like clusters of 2-8 flowers; petals 5, rose-lavender, pink, or lilac, often spotted; sepals 5. Fruits: Five, hairy, 2 - 4 cm long, single-seeded, nutlike segments per flower, each sharply pointed at base and ending in a long, spirally coiled (at least lower half), and hairy beak, 3 cm long. Ecology: Found in disturbed, often dry places, below 8,000 ft (2438 m); flowers February-July. Distribution: Thought to be native to Eurasia and north Africa; naturalized on every continent in the world; throughout N. Amer. and in every state in the US. Notes: Glandular-pubescent annuals ubiquitous in urban areas, roadsides, and disturbed areas. Immediately obvious are the basal rosettes of deeply-divided leaves which often hug the ground and radiate from the center but can be ascending and less symmetric. The common name "storksbill" describes the shapes of the fruits with long beaks which spiral and screw the seed into the ground after being wetted. Told apart from E. texanum which has simple 3-lobed leaves, often larger flowers and is without glands. Somewhat similar to species of Geranium, but members of that genus always have opposite, palmately-lobed stem leaves. Seasonal forage for rodents, desert tortoise, big game animals, and livestock. Seeds eaten by upland gamebirds, songbirds, and rodents. Ethnobotany: Costanoan make cold leaf tea to treat typhoid fever. Navajo use plant to disinfect and treat bobcat and mountain lion bites. Zuni make chewed leaf poultice for sores and rashes. Navajo also use it to treat excessive menstruation. Etymology: Erodium is Greek for heron, which comes from the bill-like fruit. Cicutaria is the water-hemlock genus, possibly referenced due to its similarly dissected leaves. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015, AHazelton 2015, AHazelton 2017