Herb Robert, Flora in Co. Mayo

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Herb Robert is a small annual plant in the common species of cranesbill. It grows to a height of between 10 cm and 40 cm, it produces small pink flowers with 5 petals and lacy leaves which are deeply dissected. Leaves and stems are hairy and often reddish.

It flowers from March to October and can be found in woodlands, hedgerows and gardens.

In Europe it was known since the Middle Ages. Its blood-red stems, beak-like seed pots and unpleasant smell, resembling burning tires when crushed, raised superstitions around it. The plant was used for dyeing fabrics a brown colour, but above all it was used as herbal medicine.

In the past it was commonly used for kidney complaints, sore throats, toothache and nosebleeds. Also farmers utilised it to cure red-water fever in livestock.

Recently medical research has shown it may be useful for diabetes and helps to fight cancer. Its botanic name is Geranium robertianum, in Irish it is called Ruitheal ri (king’s herb).

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