Many people hearing the word "geranium," think of the common window box and bedding varieties. These are actually pelargoniums. While they are part of the Geraniaceae—or Geranium—family, they are not geraniums. True geraniums grow wild in many parts of the world, from mountainous regions to the tropics.
Geraniums are usually branched plants with lobed or dissected leaves.The flowers, which can be white, rose, mauve, purple or shades of pink, are most often simple, with five petals each. The blooms sometimes have veins in a contrasting color. A few species, like the Eurasian Geranium platypetalum, feature double flowers.
Wild geranium species have acquired many nicknames, the most prominent of which is "cranesbill." The nickname is derived from the shape of the seedhead, which is bulbous on one end and tapers to a point on the other, resembling the beaked head of a crane.
Some geranium species are native to North America. Among them is Geranium maculatum, or spotted cranesbill, which has pink flowers. Geranium robertianum, also called "Herb Robert," is found in eastern and central North America. It produces small pink flowers, fern-like leaves and distinctive red stems.
Wild geranium species are the parents of many well-known hardy geranium varieties. Bevan’s Variety, for example, is a cultivar of the European Geranium macrorhizum, which features pink flowers and apple-scented leaves. Geranium maculatum is a parent of the popular Johnson’s Blue hardy geranium.