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Monday, October 14, 2013

Scarlet Pelargonium (Pelargonium inquinans)

Family Geraniaceae
Distribution and habitat
Pelargonium inquinans has a distribution range from the Eastern Cape to southern Kwazulu-Natal. Its grows on the margin of succulent scrub in soil predominantly with shale. It is also common on the margins of coastal bush. It is very similar to P. zonale , known by the dark marking on the leaves, and both species occur in similar habitats.
 Description
Pelargonium inquinans is a soft, woody shrub with a height of up to 2 m. The leaves are orbicular with crenate or finely toothed margins and have a velvety feel and glands. The branches of this plant are also velvety and glandular as well as soft when they are young. The branches harden when they become older.

Flower colour varies from bright red, which is more common, to pale pink. Salmon and even white flowers occur. The upper two petals are slightly smaller and more upright than the lower three petals which are more evenly spaced. Flower heads are formed by clusters of 5-30 flowers. The seeds are oblong with an ovoid head with a corkscrew tail. Five seeds are produced per flower head. This species flowers throughout the year.

Ecology
Pelargonium is quite interesting in that attached to the elliptically shaped seed, is a feather-like tail structure that is coiled in a spiral. The tail allows the seed to pierce and secure itself in the soil if twisted around by the wind or by the movement of animals.

 Uses and cultural aspects

The scarlet pelargonium's leaves and stems are crushed and used as a headache and flu remedy by local tribes. They also used it as a body deodorant. Pelargoniums are one of the easiest plants to grow. The attractive and striking flower colour makes this species an interesting subject for the garden. It can be planted among smaller herbaceous border plants in a garden bed. It is also suited for container gardening with regular pruning to keep the bush neat and tidy. This species is fairly water-wise and will be suited to any coastal garden.