Herb Robert Geranium robertianum
Qualities of Herb Robert
'Little herb Robert, bright and small, peeps from the bank or the old stone wall.
Little herb Robert, his leaf turns red, his wild geranium, so it is said.'
Cicely Mary Barker
Common Name: Herb robert Latin : Geranium robertianum Family: Geraniaceae History and/or use: Foliage used to stem blood and lower blood sugar levels. Wildlife Value: Produces nectar for bees, moths and hoverflies.
Herb robert is one of our native geraniums growing in shady areas and often on more acid soils. It branches out with stately foliage, each bright green leaf is lined with red carefully drawn by nature's fine artist. The leaves are then placed upon reddish stems and deep pink flowers are delicately positioned above which attract beautiful winged people coloured as though they too were flowers. This plant needs little soil growing in rocks and crevices making use of space wherever it appears, not bound by cultivated soils as its small roots take hold wherever it fancies.
Creating space in our own life and allowing our wild nature to express itself beyond the care of our constrained human world is essential for our wellbeing.
'There is a love of wild nature in everybody an ancient mother-love ever showing itself whether recognised or no,
and however covered by cares and duties.'
The plant's bright red stems especially when mature, Wordsworth has commented on in his works.
'Poor Robin is yet flowerless, but how gay with his red stalks on this sunny day'
However these stems were noted long before Wordsworth in the phenomenon known as the doctrine of signatures.
This term is used to describe the concept that a plant resembles that which it can cure and is said to be employed by tribal doctors across the world. It is said Herb Robert is one of the best plants for blood disorders and to staunch wounds brought to the attention of early herbalists by its red stems.
If you have any medical conditions please check with a medical herbalist first before taking any plant and only harvest it if you are 100% sure what it is!
The fresh leaves can be used as a compress for wounds and as a sedative and astringent, as well as gargle for sore throats and mouth. A lotion can be made from it for irritated eyes.
The plant can be dried and used internally to lower blood sugar for diabetics, help diarrhoea, peptic ulcers and treat an internal haemorrhage.
The name Robert may simply mean red (ruber) for its stems or as a reference to Robert the Duke of Normandy whom wrote a medieval medical treatise on the plant. Its foliage has a pungent smell given rise to the local name of ‘stinking bob’.
If you would like to support our work and go even more deeply into Nature Connection please become a member and have exclusive access to our online course.
Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.