This very attractive perennial is slowly working its way North in the warming climate and can now be found in the lowlands and Southern Scotland. It has even been spotted in the far North of Scotland. It enjoys a chalky soil and its Latin adjunct ‘partense’ means ‘of the meadow’ where it is mostly found, though it has also spread to road-sides and hedgerows.
The flower is usually lilac-blue, but paler blue, pink, white and even darker blues can be found depending on soil conditions. Chalkier soils produce a richer blue. The flowers are larger than the Wood Cranesbill, about 3-4cm across, with 5 rounded petals, and 5 sepals, which are short, hairy and pointed. The flower petals have fine white veins along their length and can fade to white at the centre.
The stamens have deep purple anthers on white filaments, and the central pistil forms a beak-like protrusion as it fruits, resembling a cranes’ bill, which gives the plant its name.
The leaves are 7-toothed and much more deeply lobed than the Wood Cranesbill (Geranium sylvaticum). This and the fact that the flowers don’t have a large white centre distinguish the species from each other.
Agricultural scientists have discovered that an extract from the root of Geranium pratense has antimicrobial properties and is effective in the prevention of potato scab.