Geranium caespitosum (Purple Wild Geranium)
Geraniaceae (Geranium Family)
Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
This uncommon cousin of the very common white Wild Geranium, Geranium richardonii, tends to lean and sprawl, has few flowers per plant, the flowers are gorgeous lilac to magenta, and the leaves have deep cuts and rounded lobes. Stems are often red. Purple Wild Geranium is often found in scattered ones and twos at dry trail-side hidden in grasses.
Linnaeus named this genus in 1753. The Latin word "caespitosum" is common botanical nomenclature meaning "growing in clumps".
The plant has endured at east eleven scientific name changes: the plant was first described and named in 1823 by Edwin James after he saw it (but did not collect a specimen) along the South Platte in Colorado in 1820. James named the plant Geranium caespitosum and it was soon given the common name of "James Crane's Bill". In 1847 Augustus Fendler collected a specimen of the plant in the Santa Fe area and in 1849 John Torrey described and named it Geranium fremontii, "Fremonts Crane's Bill".
In 1862 George Engelmann named the plant Geranium fremontii variety parryi, Parrys Crane's Bill, from a specimen collected by Charles Parry in Colorado in 1861. Amos Heller renamed the Parry specimen, Geranium parryi. And so on.
A re-examination of all specimens led full circle to James' original designation of G. caespitosum which commonly now is just called "Wild Geranium" or "Purple Wild Geranium". The Fremont and Parry designations are now considered varieties of Geranium caespitosum.
"Geranium" is from the Greek "geranos", "crane", referring to the long, pointed, Crane's bill-like seed.