Pink Heron's-bill, or
"Pale lilac, hyacinth purple of hue,
And the little pink geranium,
All smil'd & nodded to see me come."
-Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel
This little rockery plant is alternatingly marketed as 'Bishop's Form' of Erodiium reichardii, or of E. variabilem. But the University of Reading Department of Botany with DNA analysis finally confirmed that E. variabile is a naturally occurring hybrid of E. corsicum with E. reichardii.
The possibility that it was an intermediate hybrid had been debated for a decade, but because attempts to create intentional hybrids from these two species failed, the possibility of a spontaneous fertile hybrid was not universally accepted until DNA testing gave definitive evidence. Today the name E. variabile is gaining taxonomic precedence.
The first specimens of this natural hybrid may well have been brought to England from Majorca in the 18th Century, & further developed into many cultivars during the past century.
Spontaneous hybrids may also have been occurring in alpine houses which held both parent species. The intermediate hybrid has been gardened too long for its specific origins to be certain.
An excellent groundcover for a droughty rockery, container, or stone ledge, it produces its dark pink flowers from late spring (or earlier) throughout summer.
It wants full sun & extremely well-draining soil. It grows to four inches tall, a true dwarf, spreading very slowly, so care must be taken not to position it amidst larger perennials that will overwhelm it.
Erodium variabile 'Album'
Erodium chamaedryoides roseum 'Charm'
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