Geranium retrorsum L’Hér. ex DC.

Grassland Crane's-bill

Prodr. 1: 644 (1824) APNI

Taxonomic status:Accepted

Occurrence status:Present

Establishment means:Native

Decumbent to ascending perennial; stems to 50 cm long, with sparse to dense, short, retrorsely appressed hairs and occasionally c. spreading hairs; taproot cylindric to napiform. Leaves orbicular to reniform, 1–4.5 cm long, deeply palmatisect into 3–7, very narrow-linear, deeply trisected (often further divided) primary lobes; ultimate lobes obtuse to acute; upper surface with sparse tiny, curved to appressed hairs, or glabrous; stipules narrow-ovate to lanceolate, acuminate, margins sometimes membranous. Flowers solitary or paired; peduncles 0.8–2.5(–4.5) cm long; pedicels 0.8–2.4 cm long. Sepals ovate to narrow-elliptic, 4.5–7 mm long, acute, pubescent with minute glandular and eglandular hairs, and some longer hairs, mucro 0.5–1 mm long, margin c. translucent; petals obovate, 6–9 mm long, truncate to retuse, bright pink to magenta; anthers yellow, often with faint purple-black-lines. Fruits 11–15 mm long; mericarps with short recurved hairs becoming longer toward awn and dorsal rib, and scattered long hairs, suture margins long-ciliate; seed slightly rugose with small isodiametric alveolae. Flowers Aug.–Jan.(–May).

CVU, DunT, EGU, GipP, Glep, Gold, GGr, HNF, HSF, LoM, MonT, MuF, MuM, NIS, OtP, OtR, VAlp, VRiv, VVP, WaP, WPro, Wim. Also WA, SA, NSW, ACT, Tas. New Zealand. A widespread species, occurring predominantly in lowland grasslands and grassy woodlands. Tolerates seasonal drought, but intolerant of prolonged inundation.

Most Victorian material differs from typical Geranium retrorsum from New Zealand as circumscribed by Gardner (1984). Further assessment of this species may result in Victorian (?and Australian) material being reclassified at an infraspecific level.

Geranium retrorsum is an unresolved species complex. A variant from the Smiths Gully-Hurstbridge area (in outer north-eastern area Melbourne) was segregated from G. retrorsum in Bull (2014) as Geranium beardsellii L.P.Sm. (nom.illeg.), with Geranium sp. 14 cited as a synonym. It differs from G. retrorsum in having darker green, less dissected leaves which are not 'tangled' in appearance ('tangled' in G. retrorsum) and are 5-lobed (3–7-lobed and each lobe deeply trisected in G. retrorsum), with the lobes less linear, not distinctly hairy on lower surface (short hairs below, often only on margins and veins in G. retrorsum), with scattered short hairs on the upper surface (glabrous in G. retrorsum). The petals are rounded to truncate or rarely very slightly notched (notched in G. retrorsum); and anthers cream-lemon often with faint purple-black-lines (lemon yellow in G. retrorsum) (Bull 2014).

Source: Smith, L.P. (1999). Geranium. In: Walsh, N.G.; Entwisle, T.J. (eds), Flora of Victoria Vol. 4, Cornaceae to Asteraceae. Inkata Press, Melbourne.
Updated by: Val Stajsic, 2020-07-27

Bull, M. (2014). Flora of Melbourne: a guide to the indigenous plants of the greater Melbourne area, Hyland House Publishing.

Gardner, R.O. (1984). Geranium solanderi and allies in New Zealand, New Zealand Journal of Botany 22: 127-134.

Hero image
Distribution map
life Life
kingdom Plantae
phylum Tracheophyta
superorder Rosanae
order Geraniales
family Geraniaceae
genus Geranium
Higher taxa


Source: AVH (2014). Australia's Virtual Herbarium, Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, <>. Find Geranium retrorsum in AVH ; Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, © The State of Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (published Dec. 2014) Find Geranium retrorsum in Victorian Biodiversity Atlas
  Bioregion Occurrence status Establishment means
Lowan Mallee present native
Murray Mallee present native
Wimmera present native
Glenelg Plain present native
Victorian Volcanic Plain present native
Victorian Riverina present native
Murray Fans present native
Gippsland Plain present native
Otway Plain present native
Warrnambool Plain present native
Goldfields present native
Central Victorian Uplands present native
Greater Grampians present native
Dundas Tablelands present native
Northern Inland Slopes present native
East Gippsland Uplands present native
Wilsons Promontory present native
Highlands-Southern Fall present native
Highlands-Northern Fall present native
Otway Ranges present native
Monaro Tablelands present native
Victorian Alps present native

State distribution

Distribution map
Western Australia
South Australia
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory