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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sweet-scented Pelargonium (Pelargonium odoratissimum)

Family Geraniaceae
 Distribution and habitat

Pelargonium odoratissimum is common in the southern Western and Eastern Cape. Locality records have also been noted from the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. It grows as undergrowth in forests or in shaded places protected by rocky ledges or taller bushes.

Ecology

The seed is adapted to wind dispersal; it is light in weight and has a feathered, spiral, tail. When the seed lands and there is sufficient moisture in the soil, the tail becomes like a drill, twisting the seed into the soil so that the seed can anchor itself in the ground and prevent itself from being blown away, or carried away by moving animals.

 Description

Pelargonium odoratissimum is a perennial and relatively flat-growing shrublet with a short thick main stem with extensive herbaceous flowering branches which are 60 cm in length. The plant rarely grows beyond a height of 30 cm. The main stem is coarse and scaly due to persistent bases of old stipules. The roots are somewhat tuberous.

The leaves, 30–40 mm in diameter, are roundish to ovate –cordate with crenulate margins. They are apple green and covered with fine short hairs making them pleasant to touch. They have a strong apple-mint scent.

The flowers are pale pink/white and relatively small. This species flowers throughout the year except for midsummer.

 Uses and cultural aspects

The essential oils of Pelargonium species that have scented leaves such as P. tomentosum, P. denticulatum and P. odoratissimum have been found to have good antibacterial activity. The species can also be used for cosmetic, culinary, craft and aromatic preservatives . When gardening with Pelargonium odoratissimum one should bear in mind that it is best grown in a semishaded area of the garden. P. graveolens, and P. tomentosum are also recommended for semishaded areas . The leaves are very aromatic, making this plant an excellent addition to any scented garden. Kids will take pleasure in the great sensory benefits these plants present. P. odoratissimum does well in containers and small spaces, and can be grown successfully indoors.