Erodium cicutarium (L.) L'Hr. ex Aiton



CC = *
CW = 5
MOC = 13

© SRTurner

Family - Geraniaceae

Habit - Annual forb.

Stem - Prostrate to loosely ascending, to 35 cm, often reddish or purplish tinged, moderately pubescent with spreading, minutely gland-tipped hairs.

Erodium_cicutarium_stem.jpg Stem and stipule.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Basal and opposite, petiolate, pinnately compound. Blades 2-10 cm long, narrowly oblong-oblanceolate in outline, pinnately compound with 4-8 pairs of opposite leaflets, these 4-13 mm long, mostly ovate to oblong-elliptic in outline, deeply pinnately lobed, the lobes toothed or shallowly lobed along the margins, the veins and margins sometimes reddish or purplish tinged. Stipules mostly 3 at each node (by fusion of adjacent stipules on 1 side but not the other).

Erodium_cicutarium_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Erodium_cicutarium_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Axillary clusters of mostly 2-5 flowers, usually appearing umbellate.

Erodium_cicutarium_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Sepals 2.5 to 4.0 mm long, elongating to 6.5 mm at maturity, lanceolate or oblong, abruptly narrowed or tapered to a short awnlike extension at the tip. Petals 3-6 mm long, obovate, narrowed to a stalklike base, pink to pale purple. Stamens 5, the filaments free, gradually broadened toward the base. Staminodes 5, scalelike, shorter than the filaments of fertile stamens. Ovary 1 per flower, superior, of 5 fused carpels fused to a slender central column, 5-lobed toward the tip, with 5 locules. Styles 5, but fused to the beaklike central column for most of their length, persistent and becoming elongated at fruiting, the stigmas 5, club-shaped or linear. Ovules 2 per locule.

Erodium_cicutarium_sepals.jpg Sepals.

© SRTurner

Erodium_cicutarium_corollas.jpg Corollas.

© SRTurner

Erodium_cicutarium_functional.jpg Functional parts.

Five stigmas in a star-shaped pattern, surrounded by (usually 5) stamens. Staminodes are small and not easily observed.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Schizocarps, 5-lobed toward the base, splitting from the column into 5 mericarps at maturity. Mericarps 25-45 mm long at maturity, single seeded, the seed-containing basal portion 3.5-4.5 mm long, usually indehiscent, moderately to densely pubescent with short stiff ascending hairs, the stylar beak with inconspicuous short appressed hairs and separating from the column and curling and/or twisting outward at maturity. Seeds 2-3 mm long.

Erodium_cicutarium_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© SRTurner

Flowering - March - November.

Habitat - Lawns, roadsides, glades, open disturbed areas.

Origin - Native to Eurasia and Africa.

Lookalikes - None.

Other info. - This small but pretty introduced species is not common in Missouri. Its occurrence in the state is from widely scattered locations, although most counties in the St. Louis (east-central) region of the state report its presence. It is much more common to our southwest, though it occurs in at least scattered locations across the U.S. and parts of Canada.

The plant is easily identified by its hairy stems, finely divided leaves, small but richly colored flowers, and long fruits. The fruits stand erect at the apex of bent pedicels. The shining and vibrant color of the flowers is unique to this species.

Though introduced, Erodium cicutarium has multiple benefits to wildlife, serving as a source of both pollen and nectar to insects and butterflies. It provides seasonal forage for rodents, desert tortoise, big game animals, and livestock. The seeds are eaten by upland game birds, songbirds, and rodents. The plant has been cultivated as livestock forage in parts of the U.S., and is often called "alfileria" or "pin clover" in that context. The Zuni people used the plant medicinally, and herbal use continues to the present day. Young plants are reportedly edible, with a sharp flavor reminiscent of parsley.

Photographs taken along the Katy Trail in Marthasville, Warren County, MO, 3-6-2012, in Eureka, St. Louis County, MO, 4-22-2014, and at the Katy Trail trailhead in Marthasville, Warren County, MO, 3-25-2020 (SRTurner).