Geranium robertianum

This weed has been a feature of my garden since moving here.

Geranium robertianum

(Herb Robert)


Pretty isn’t it? But I’m afraid I can’t get to like it. Why? Well, despite its pretty pink flowers and its delicate foliage which turns from lime green to dark green and then to pinky red and orange … it smells! Only if I disturb it of course, but since it also spreads like wildfire, popping up in the most inappropriate places such as in the centre of a lavender bush, or among my Nigella seedlings, it has to go. Its revenge is a pungent smell that reminds me of tomcats, or foxes…. need I say more.

Recently I decided to read up about it when I accidentally discovered that this plant, also known as Herb Robert, or “Stinking Bob”(!), is actually a mosquito repellent. Hmmm. What’s worse – the smell, or a mosquito bite? Another common name, Storksbill, suggests a link to its ancient use as a fertility herb. It was also used as a remedy for toothache, gout, bruises, nosebleeds….Β  And apparently it is good luck to carry some around with you… although its smell may repel more than just the mosquitoes!


The delicate pale to deep pink flowers have five petals and are able to self-fertilise if they are not pollinated. The leaves also look quite delicate and are mostly pale green, but as the plant ages, or in very hot or very cold weather, they turn to a lovely pinkish red, and then to a burnt orange. Herb Robert first appears here in April or May and lasts until the frosts. I have even seen it under the snow. It supposedly likes shade best, but in my garden it also spreads very happily across the sunny and dry south-facing rockery. It is easy to remove, but prolific.


Have you seen this herb/weed in your garden? Or perhaps some other type of wild Geranium?

37 thoughts on “Geranium robertianum

    • I think there are probably so many, but I do know this one also grows in North America. Perhaps it’s the same one… take a sniff next time you see one!

  1. I have not seen this Geranium. There is a native wild Geranium, G. maculatum. While it can spread, I wouldn’t say it is excessively weedy. Cranesbill is also a common name for Geranium, I think because of the seed pod.

    • I’ve got one of those too, and didn’t think about it being a wild one, but the growth definitely hints at that. In German it’s also called a “Stork’s bill”!

  2. So far I haven’t had herb Robert in the garden, but it grows in the hedgerows and village greens around here. I always like to see it,but that’s probably because I haven’t had to deal with it as a weed, or noticed the smell – will have to investigate that next time I come across a plant!

    • That’s why I often leave it standing, as it really does have lovely colours. The shady edge of the compost heap is a mass of lime green and pale pink!

      • lol you run a tidy ship!

        My place is now officially out of hand. 😦 Grapes growing where they do not belong, poison ivy all the way up my willow and 4 pretty pines wild roses and honeysuckle too

        I have only had time to weed and mow with all the rain we have had 😦 I see me very busy this fall with huge power tools πŸ™‚
        I am now using weight machines so weeds stand on notice her too πŸ™‚

  3. Sometimes I want to give up and just plant weeds! At least this one would be guaranteed to grow and flower. And it brings good luck too. What more could we ask of a plant? Seriously, I see this one or something like it and do my best to eradicate it. A losing battle. Great post!

  4. Yes, we have masses of it here, where I pull it out as soon as I see it, but the smell lingers afterwards ! Storksbill refers to the shape of the seedpod which I hope never to see as that will mean more plants to pull out!

  5. Very interesting, Cathy, thank you :). I do actually prefer the bad smell to the mosquito bites…we too have wild geraniums here but they don’t worry me when they spread as it’s usually in the meadow or woodland. A lot of Geranium have smelly foliage which makes pruning rather awkward but then again they’re such a wonderful lot when it comes to groundcover. Is “weed” still politically correct? πŸ˜‰

  6. I’m with you on this one; the smell is horrible; it’s also called Crane’s Bill (again for the shape of the headhead). I didn’t know about the mosqito repellant qualities; that almost makes me like it more.

    • I’m generally lucky in that the bites only irritate for a few hours, but sitting outside in the evenings is just not on at the moment… 😦

    • That’s interesting that you mention being sensitive to it as I have noticed the same… maybe I shouldn’t try it as a mosquito repellent after all!

    • Same here. Isn’t it strange…. everyone I know is saying the same, regardless where they live! We have to come indoors by about 8pm. 😦

  7. This is a beautiful flower. A shame that it has such a nasty smell. Maybe you should pull it out and plant something else that keeps away the mosquitoes. I’ve heard mosquitoes don’t like plectranthus coleoides either.

    • Hi Simone! I keep pulling it out, but it has a mind of its own. πŸ˜‰ I’ll have to look that up… thanks for the tip! πŸ˜€

    • Thanks Steve. The seed capsules of these are pretty small, but some of the other geraniums in my garden are quite beautiful when they go to seed. I love seed heads of almost all flowers, but geranium is a favourite.

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