This annual plant grows in dry grassland, cultivated land, sand dunes and waste sites all over Scotland, but is less common in the Central and North West Highlands. It does well on sunny sites and sandy soils and can sometimes be found on the verges in housing estates.
Its small flowers grows in pairs on stalks and are less than 1cm in diameter, with 5 heart-shaped petals, rosy-purple and with one deep cleft at the end. Two thin purple veins run along the petals towards the ends between the clefts.
The leaves form dense clumps near to the ground with the flowers on stalks with long white hairs, and hairy sepals almost as long as the petals. The central stigma is reddish, and forms the eponymous ‘cranes’ bill’ – shaped protrusion as it fruits. The stems can sometimes appear as a reddish colour.
The leaves are rounded, grey-green, soft and hairy, with 7 shallow notched lobes, not as deeply lobed as some Cranesbill leaves. The Latin name ‘molle’, meaning ‘soft’ refers to the soft furry quality of the leaves.
Nicholas Culpeper found decoctions of the plant to be effective in the treatment of gout and also internal ‘ruptures and burstings’! It contains Gallic acid, an astringent, which can be beneficial for the treatment of internal bleeding. The leaves are edible, but opinions differ as to taste.