Erodium

White Stork's-bill
or Heron's-bill
or Alpine Geranium
or Baby Swiss Geranium

   

Erodium x variabile 'Album' is a native of the Pyranees of Northern Spain. It is a small perennial groundcover with scalloped leaves.

It reaches only about two inches of height, potentially mounding into a "cushion" no higher than four inches at the center. Spread is no less than ten inches.

Frequently sold as E. reichardii 'Album,' the names are only partially synonymous. The name E. variabile was suggested in 1980 by Dr. Alan Leslie of the Royal Horticultural Society to describe an intermediate species between E. reichardii (synonymous with E. chamaedryoides) native to the Pyranees of Northern Spain, with E. corsicum native to Corsica. Though attempts to cross these species intentionally failed, apparently spontaneous hybridizations had been occurring in alpine gardens for some while before conscious selections were made for cultivation.

ErodiumSoon after the hybrid status for E. variabile was described, Dr. Leslie's fellow enthusiasts began expressing doubts that it was a hybrid at all, but merely a variant-leafed form of E. reichardii. The issue was eventually brought before the Royal Horticultural Societies Advisery Board for Nomenclature & Taxonony, & it was decided to spring for the cost of DNA investigation, which found that Dr. Leslie's surmise of spontaneous hybridization was indeed the case.

The white flowers have fine violet-pink pencil-lines. The primary bloom time begins May or June & lasts until September or October, though the photo shows this alpine flower on a sunny stone ledge, already blooming in March.

Erodiums are known as Stork's-bills or Heron's-bills because of the appearance of their seeds, & are occasionally called Dwarf Crane's-bills though Crane's-bill is a name more often reserved for hardy geraniums to which erodiums are closely related

Excess moisture or poorly draining soil is its primary enemy around Puget Sound, so to do well, it needs the sunniest location with sharply draining soil. If something overshadows it a little during the hottest days of summer, that would be beneficial, for despite its love of the sun, it's an alpine species & not the most heat-hardy plant.

Hardy down to 15 degrees F., our winter temperatures very rarely fall into the teens, so that this White Erodium is evergreen. Besides 'Album' we have another even smaller cultivar 'Charm.' These can look fairly tidy even at winter's end, with just a little protection from harsher weather & excess wetness.

See also:
Erodium variabile 'Bishop's Form'
&
Erodium chamaedryoides roseum 'Charm'

   



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