Geranium retrorsum


Geranium: From the Greek geranos 'crane', the fruit of the plant resembling the head and beak of this bird, hence the common name cranesbill.
retrorsum: Bent backward or downward

Common Name(s)

turnip-rooted geranium

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
2004 - Not Threatened


2012 - DP, SO
2009 - DP, SO


Geranium retrorsum DC.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Herbs other than Composites




Indigenous. North and South Islands including many northern offshore islands.


Coastal to lower montane (0-400 m a.s.l.). Formerly widespread in short tussock grasslands, on lava fields, clay pans and on rocky coastal headlands.


Perennial herb 120-390 mm tall. Rootstock 4.9-15.7 mm diam., without fusiform roots. Stem erect to ascending, with retrorse, appressed, eglandular hairs 0.2-0.9 mm long. Basal leaves in a ± deciduous rosette; lamina 0.99-4.08 × 1.6-5.3 cm, polygonal in outline, cordate, palmatifid (divided for 0.56-0.84 of its length), pilose, with appressed, eglandular hairs; segments 5-7, obtriangular, 1.2-5.6 mm at the base, 3-9-lobed in distal half; petioles to 230 mm long, with retrorse, appressed, eglandular hairs 0.2-0.9 mm long; stipules 2.0-6.5 × 0.5-1.5 mm, with eglandular hairs on abaxial surface and on the margin, glabrous adaxially. Inflorescence 2-flowered cymules, solitary; peduncles (6-)13-31(-84) mm long, with retrorse, appressed, eglandular hairs 0.2-0.6 mm long; bracteoles 1.4-4.2 × 0.3-0.9 mm, linear-lanceolate, with eglandular hairs on abaxial surface and on the margin, glabrous adaxially; pedicels 6-37 mm long, with retrorse, appressed, eglandular hairs 0.2-0.6 mm long; pedicel and peduncle together usually overtopping the subtending leaf. Sepals (3.2-)4.9-5.5(-6.3) × 1.5-3.5 mm, lanceolate, with mucro (0.2-)0.4-0.6(-0.9) mm long, with scarious margins 0.1-0.2 mm wide, with antrorse, ± appressed, eglandular hairs 0.1-1.1 mm long on the abaxial side, glabrous adaxially. Petals (2.9-)3.5-5.3(-9.2) x 1.4-4.5 mm, entire or slightly notched, without claw, glabrous on both sides, ciliate on the basal margin, dark white, pink to dark purple. Filaments 2.2-4.7 mm long, whitish, glabrous on both sides, ciliate on the basal margin, with hairs up to 0.10-0.15 mm long; anthers 0.4-1.0 × 0.2-0.6 mm, yellowish. Nectaries glabrous. Gynoecium 2.0-4.5 mm long, yellowish. Fruit 11-18 mm long; mericarps 2.5-3.5 × 1.3-1.7 mm, smooth, with erect-patent, eglandular hairs 0.3-1.2 mm long, brownish; rostrum 7.8-13.2 mm long, without a narrowed apex, with erect-patent, eglandular hairs 0.1-0.7 mm long; stigmatic remains (0.6-)0.9-1.1(-1.3) mm long, with 5 hairy lobes. Seeds 1.5-2.3 × 1-1.4 mm, finely reticulate.

Similar Taxa

Most frequently confused with G. solanderi Carolin from which it differs by the long hairs of the petiole and pedicel distinctively retrorse, appressed, rather than straight, patent or curved and retrorse but never appressed, and by the dorsal alveolae of the seed mostly 4-6- rather than 5-6-sided, and up to c.0.1 mm rather than > 0.1 mm diameter. The rootstock of G. retrorsum is often turnip-shaped; that of G. solanderi is more like a long tapering parsnip or carrot.


September - March

Flower Colours

Red / Pink,White


October - July

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed but inclined to be short-lived. Does not transplant well. Prefers a free draining, suuny situation.


Geranium retrorsum is now very uncommon throughout most of its North Island range though it is still common in parts of the eastern South Island (de Lange et al. 2010). In the North Island it is now mainly found on northern offshore islands. It appears to be threatened by browsing animals such as rabbits which avidly dig up plants for the roots. The open habitats it prefers are also now largely dominated by taller growing weeds. It is still said to be common in Australia.

Chromosome No.

2n = 52

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Seed dispersed by wind, ballistic projection and possibly attachment (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Not commercially available.


In New Zealand Geranium retrorsum comprises three distinct races, the typical form (i.e. matching the type) of which is the one described here, and which is undeniably indigenous. Two other races occur, one confined to weedy sites around Canterbury (see Webb & Simpson 2001) and another found so far only around Oakley Creek, Auckland (Mitchell et al. 2009) - and possibly also Tawa, Wellington. The taxonomic status of these latter two races, both of which probably also occur in Australia, needs resolution but for now they are regarded as indigenous.



Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange 14 April 2008. Description adapted from Aedo et al. (2005) supplemented with observations based on fresh and cultivated specimens.

References and further reading

Aedo, C., O. Fiz, M. L. Alarcón, C. Navarro, and J. J. Aldasoro. 2005. Taxonomic revision of Geranium sect. Dissecta (Geraniaceae). Systematic Botany 30: 533-558.

de Lange, P.J.; Heenan, P.B.; Norton, D.A.; Rolfe, J.R.; Sawyer, J.W.D. 2010: Threatened Plants of New Zealand. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

Gardner, R. O. 1984. Geranium solanderi and allies in New Zealand. New Zealand J. Bot. 22. 127-134.

Mitchell, A. D., P. B. Heenan, and A. M. Paterson. 2009. Phylogenetic relationships of Geranium species indigenous to New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 47: 21-31.

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309.

Webb, C.J.; Simpson, M.J.A. 2001: Seeds of New Zealand Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Manuka Press, Christchurch.

This page last updated on 29 Oct 2014