This attractive and hardy perennial can be found scattered around upland meadows, hedgerows and woods in the Borders and Central Scotland.
The flowers are smaller than other Cranesbill varieties, up to 3cm across, and consist of five overlapping petals, lilac or reddish-mauve in colour with a white centre. Very fine dark purple veins run along the length of each petal like tiny blood vessels. The more pronounced white centre distinguishes the Wood Cranesbill from the Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense) growing in the lowlands and Southern Scotland.
The stamens are made up of white filaments with purple anthers at the tip. The style and stigma is a tiny pinkish or red ‘beak’ in the centre of the flower which protrudes after fertilisation to look like a tiny stork or cranes’ bill, hence the name of the flower. As they ripen the ‘beaks’ point upwards. Sepals are hairy with a pointed tip, and stems are also hairy.
The leaves grow on long stalks and are made up of 7 toothed or shallowly cut lobes.
This shade loving plant has been cultivated in gardens to provide colour under trees and larger bushes. In ancient times a blue dye was produced from the flowers and used to dye war-cloaks in the belief the colour provided protection in battle. This gave rise to its old folk name of ‘Odin’s Grace.’