Shiny geranium identification and control
Shiny geranium, also called shining crane's bill, is a low-growing annual Eurasian plant that has escaped from gardens into wildlands, particularly in Oregon's Willamette Valley, as well as a few locations in Washington State and California. It resembles other weedy geraniums such as herb robert (Geranium robertianum) and dovefoot (Geranium molle), and can quickly spread and overwhelm open to semi-open habitats. NOTE: Shiny geranium has shown up as a contaminant in nursery stock in Washington so care should be taken when purchasing plants from infested areas.
Legal status in King County, Washington
Shiny geranium is a Class B Noxious Weed in Washington State due to its limited distribution in parts of the state and the potential for significant impact to state resources should it spread to uninfested areas. The species is designated for required control in King County and is on the county's list of Regulated Class B Noxious Weeds. Public and private landowners are required to control this plant when it occurs on their land.
This species is also on the Washington quarantine list (known as the prohibited plants list) and it is prohibited to transport, buy, sell, offer for sale, or to distribute plants or plant parts, seeds in packets, blends or "wildflower mixes" of this species, into or within the state of Washington.
For more information on noxious weed regulations and definitions, see Noxious weed lists and laws.
Because of the difficulty in distinguishing this plant from more widespread weeds, we recommend contacting the noxious weed program for a positive identification before removing.
Identification (see below for more photos)
- Low-growing annual with small, pink, 5-petaled flowers that grow in pairs on little stems
- Leaves are shiny (especially later in the season), round to kidney-shaped with 5-7 lobes (that are themselves shallowly lobed)
- Sepals (around the base of the flower) are keeled (stick out) with noticeable cross-ribs
- Stems are reddish and not hairy, up to 20 inches tall
- Bloom time is spring to late July
- Resembles the common yard weed called dovefoot geranium (Geranium molle) but dovefoot's petals are deeply notched (looks like the flowers have ten petals instead of five), and dovefoot is more fuzzy and the stems are less red
Habitat and impact
In the Pacific Northwest, shiny geranium is most abundant in oak woodlands and open grasslands in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, but is also found in other areas such as the Portland area, northern California, Bayview State Park in Skagit County, Washington and in southwest Washington. It is usually found in well-shaded woodlands and in forest openings. It is sometimes found growing with its close cousin herb robert, but seems to be more limited by shade than herb Robert. Although shiny geranium does well in disturbed sites such as roadsides, it can also invade into and overwhelm high quality native habitat, both in forests and open grasslands.
Shiny geranium reproduces by seed and is pollinated by insects. The seeds form in capsules with a long pointy "beak" that gives the plant one of it's common names crane's bill. Seeds are forcefully ejected when ripe, helping it spread up as well as out from parent plants. This is probably why this plant can be found in crevices of tree trunks or spreading up hillsides. This plant can sometimes last two years but is most often an annual. Flowering is from April-May to July and seeds mature and spread usually from late June to early July. Germination is in late summer to early fall.
Prevention: Seeds of shiny geranium can be carried on shoes and vehicles, so special care should be taken to clean off after entering areas infested with this plant. Watch for new patches of this plant during bloom time (from April to July). Shiny geranium has been found as a hitchhiker in pots of other plants purchased from nurseries so make sure to inspect all new plantings for this weed, especially those with plants purchased from infested regions.
Small patches: Plants can be carefully hand-pulled or dug out before they are in seed, but take care to remove as much root and stem as possible to prevent plants from re-sprouting. Put all plant material in garbage bags not compost to prevent spreading it more.
Larger patches: Large areas can be controlled by covering with a deep layer of mulch, or for better results, cover with cardboard first, then a thick layer of wood chip mulch. If you have a site where herbicide can be used, plants can be sprayed before flowering (late March through April) with a broadleaf herbicide such as triclopyr (e.g. Brush B Gon). You can use a non-selective herbicide such as glyphosate (e.g. Roundup) but this kills grass and may result in a flush of new weed seedlings following spraying. Please refer to herbicide labels for site specific control information and refer to the PNW Weed Management Handbook for additional information on herbicide use. Make sure to follow all local and state rules about herbicide use and follow the herbicide label on the product you are using. Another alternative to spraying for large sites is burning with a propane-based burning tool several times each growing season (if burning is allowed in your location). No matter what method you use, follow up for several years to ensure successful eradication and depletion of the seed bank.
Additional information on shiny geranium
- Shiny Geranium King County Noxious Weed Alert (pdf)
- Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board (external link)
- Photos and Distribution from the University of Washington Burke Museum (external link)
- Oregon Department of Agriculture Noxious Weed Program Profile (external link)
- Herbario Virtual: Geranium lucidum (external link)
What to do if you find this plant in King County, Washington
First be sure that you have the right plant. If you have shiny geranium growing on your property in King County, we encourage you to follow along with the above "control" directions for your situation. If you need assistance in controlling shiny geranium on your property, you can send an email, or call 206-477-WEED (206-477-9333). We map all known locations of regulated noxious weeds such as shiny geranium in order to help us and others locate new infestations in time to control them.
Shiny geranium photos
Photos on this page courtesy of Ben Legler and Bruce Newhouse. Please do not use these images without permission from the photographers.
Report shiny geranium in King County, Washington
- Please notify us through our online infestation form
Locate shiny geranium in King County, Washington
- Use our interactive noxious weed map and search for shiny geranium