Manual of the New Zealand Flora/Geraniaceæ

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Herbs or shrubs, very rarely trees. Leaves opposite or alternate, usually stipulate. Flowers regular or irregular, generally hermaphrodite. Sepals 5, seldom fewer, free or united to the middle, imbricate or rarely valvate, posterior one sometimes spurred. Petals as many as the sepals, rarely fewer or wanting, hypogynous or slightly perigynous, usually imbricate. Torus barely expanded into a disc, with or without 5 glands alternating with the petals, usually raised in the centre into a beak. Stamens generally twice the number of the petals or fewer by suppression; filaments free or connate at the base; anthers 2-celled. Ovary 3–5-lobed, cells the same number; carpels 3–5, adnate to the axis as far as the insertion of the ovules, and often prolonged into a beak-like style or styles; ovules 1–2 to each carpel, rarely more. Fruit a 3–5-lobed capsule, often splitting from below upwards into as many 1-seeded carpels with long styles, which coil up elastically; or the capsule may be loculicidally 3–5-celled, with 2-several seeds in each cell; or more rarely the mature fruit is composed of 3–5 indehiscent 1-seeded cocci. Seeds with scanty or no albumen; embryo straight or curved.

A rather large and somewhat heterogeneous order, composed of several tribes differing in important points of structure, and often kept up as separate orders. Taken in a broad sense, it contains 20 genera and about 750 species. Probably about three-quarters of the species are natives of South Africa, but the order is also well represented in the north temperate zone. It is comparatively rare in the tropics and in Australasia. Many of the species are highly ornamental, but few of them possess any economic value. The three New Zealand genera have a wide range.

A. Capsule beaked, splitting into 1-seeded lobes which coil up elastically along the beak. Leaves toothed or lobed.
Flowers regular. Perfect stamens 10 1. Geranium.
Flowers irregular, with a spur adnate to the pedicel. Perfect stamens 5–7 2. Pelargonium.
B. Capsule opening loculicidally. Leaves 3-foliolate.
Flowers regular. 3. Oxalis.

1. GERANIUM, Linn.

Annual or perennial herbs, rarely woody at the base. Leaves opposite or alternate, usually palmately lobed or cut, stipulate. Peduncles axillary, bracteate, 1–2-flowered. Flowers regular. Sepals 5. Petals 5, hypogynous, imbricate, alternating with 5 glands. Stamens 10, usually all perfect, rarely 5 without anthers, free or connate at the base. Ovary 5-lobed and 5-celled, with a long beak terminated by 5 stigmas; ovules 2 in each cell, superposed. Capsule splitting from below upwards into 5 carpels with long styles, which roll up elastically; seeds 1 in each carpel.

A well-known genus, comprising over 100 species, widely distributed over the whole world, but most abundant in the Northern Hemisphere. Two of the New Zealand species are endemic; 1 extends to Australia and temperate South America; the remaining 2 are found in most temperate regions.

Stems suberect. Leaves much divided. Peduncles 2-flowered. Sepals awned. Seeds coarsely reticulated 1. G. dissectum.
Stems prostrate. Peduncles 1-flowered. Sepals hardly awned. Seeds smooth or very finely reticulated 2. G. microphyllum.
Stemless or nearly so. Rootstock stout. Peduncles 1-flowered. Seeds quite smooth 3. G. sessiliflorum.
Stems prostrate, and with the leaves silky-hoary. Peduncles 1-flowered. Flowers large 4. G. Traversii.
Softly pilose. Stems diffuse or prostrate. Peduncles 2-flowered. Sepals mucronate. Carpels wrinkled. Seeds smooth 5. G. molle.

1. G. dissectum, Linn. Cent. i. 21, var. australe, Benth. Fl. Austral. i. 296.—A branching decumbent or suberect annual or perennial herb, sometimes with a stout swollen rootstock. Stem 1–2 ft. long, often covered with soft spreading or retrorse hairs, rarely almost glabrous. Leaves on long slender petioles; blade 1–2 in. diam. or more, cut to the base or nearly so into 5–7 segments which are again deeply and irregularly divided into few or many usually narrow lobes; lobes obtuse or acute. Peduncles slender, 2-flowered. Flowers very variable in size. Sepals ovate or ovate-lanceolate, usually with an awn of varying length, pilose. Petals as long or longer than the sepals, slightly notched at the apex. Carpels hairy, even. Seeds deeply and coarsely reticulated.— G. dissectum var. carolinianum. Hook. f. Fl. Nov. Zel. i. 39; Handb. N.Z. Fl. 36; Kirk, Students' Fl. 79.

Var. a, pilosum, Hook. f. Handb. N.Z. Fl. 36.—Suberect or spreading, clothed with spreading hairs. Petals often large.—G. pilosum, Forst. Prodr. n. 581; A. Cunn. Precur. n. 593. G. patagonicum, Hook. f. Fl. Antarct. ii. 252.

Var. b, patulum, Hook. f. l.c.—Suberect or spreading, clothed with spreading and retrorse hairs. Petals usually small.—G. patulum, Forst. Prodr. n. 530. G. retrorsum, L'Herit, ex D.C. Prodr. i. 644; A. Cunn. Precur. n. 594.

Var. c, glabratum, Hook. f. l.c.—Stout, procumbent, almost glabrous. Leaves 3–5-lobed; lobes much broader and less cut.

Kermadec Islands, North and South Islands, Chatham Islands: Extends as far south as the Bluff, but most plentiful in the north. Var. australe occurs in Australia, Tasmania, and South America; the typical form is abundant in the Northern Hemisphere.

2. G. microphyllum, Hook. f Fl. Antarct. i. 8, t. 5.—A slender much-branched prostrate and straggling perennial 6–18 in. long, more or less pubescent with appressed silky white hairs, which are sometimes retrorse on the peduncles and pedicels. Leaves on long slender petioles; blade ½–1 in. diam., orbicular in outline, cut to the middle or below into 3–7 broad or narrow obcuneate lobes, which are more or less deeply toothed at the tips; stipules small. Peduncles 1-flowered, rarely 2-flowered; flowers usually white. Sepals ovate-lanceolate, barely awned. Petals longer than the sepals, entire or slightly retuse. Carpels smooth and even, pilose. Seeds longitudinally striated, reticulations long and narrow, not conspicuous.—Handb. N.Z. Fl. 36; Kirk, Students' Fl. 80. G. potentilloides, Hook. f. Fl. Nov. Zel. i. 40 (non L'Herit).

North and South Islands, Stewart Island, Auckland Islands: Common from the North Cape southwards, ascending to 3000 ft. Endemic.

This differs from all the forms of G. dissectum in the more slender habit, less deeply lobed and smaller leaves, 1-flowered peduncles, paler flowers, and in the much smaller and narrower reticulations on the seeds.

3. G. sessiliflorum, Cav. Diss. 198, t. 77, f. 2.—A depressed almost stemless perennial, more or less covered with spreading or retrorse silky hairs. Rootstock stout and woody, often branched above. Leaves mostly radical, numerous, crowded, on long slender petioles; blade ¼–¾ in. diam., orbicular, deeply divided into 3–5 toothed or lobed segments; stipules broad, membranous. Flowering-stems very short or quite undeveloped. Peduncles usually 1-flowered, short, seldom equalling the leaves. Flowers small. Sepals oblong, shortly awned, silky. Petals white, exceeding the sepals. Carpels even, minutely hairy. Seeds smooth, not reticulated.—Hook. f. Handb. N.Z. FI. 36; Benth. Fl. Austral. i. 297; T. Kirk, Students' Fl. 80. G. brevicaule, Hook. in Journ. Bot. i. (1834) 252; Hook. f. Fl. Nov. Zel. i. 40.

North and South Islands, Stewart Island: Not uncommon from the Lower Waikato southwards, ascending to 3000 ft. Also in Victoria, Tasmania, and temperate South America.

Easily distinguished from all the other species by the small size, stemless habit, and even seeds.

4. G. Traversii, Hook. f Handb. N.Z. Fl. 726.—A perennial herb, more or less hoary in all its parts with short and dense silvery white hairs; stems decumbent or prostrate, 1–2 ft. long. Radical leaves on long slender petioles 4–9 in. long; blade 1–3 in. diam., orbicular in outline, 5–7-lobed to the middle; lobes cuneate, toothed or lobed at the tips, silky-hoary on both surfaces. Cauline leaves much smaller and on much shorter petioles. Stipules broadly ovate, cuspidate. Peduncles 1–4 in. long, 1-flowered, with 2 acuminate bracts about the middle. Flowers large, ¾–1 in. diam., white or pink. Sepals broadly ovate, cuspidate. Petals broad-obovate, entire, much longer than the sepals. Carpels silky-pilose. Seeds very minutely reticulated.—T. Kirk, Students' Fl. 80; Buch. in Trans. N.Z. Inst. vii. t. 13, f. 2.

Chatham Islands: Not uncommon in open places, H. H. Travers! J. D. Enys! November-December.

By far the finest of the New Zealand species. Well characterized by the silvery hoary pubescence, 1-flowered peduncles, large flowers, and minutely reticulated seeds.

5. G. molle, Linn. Sp. 682.—A diffuse or procumbent much-branched annual or perennial, more or less softly pilose in all its parts; stems 6–12 in. long. Radical leaves numerous, on long slender petioles; blade orbicular, 1–2 in. diam., 5–9-lobed to below the middle; lobes obovate or cuneate, irregularly lobed or crenate. Cauline leaves smaller, on shorter petioles, with fewer but deeper divisions. Peduncles shorter than the leaves, 2-flowered. Flowers small, purplish. Sepals broadly ovate, mucronate. Petals deeply notched, barely exceeding the sepals. Carpels usually distinctly marked with transverse wrinkles. Seeds smooth, not reticulated.—Hook. f. Fl. Nov. Zel. i. 40; Handb. N.Z. Fl. 37; T. Kirk, Students' Fl. 81.

Kermadec Islands, North and South Islands, Stewart Island, Chatham Islands.—Abundant throughout, ascending to over 2500ft. in the South Island. Common in Europe, north Africa, and western Asia; and naturalised in other countries.

There can be little doubt that this is introduced, but as it has had a place given to it in previous works on New Zealand plants, and as it is now found in all soils and situations, and would certainly be considered indigenous by a stranger unacquainted with its history, it appears best to retain it in the Flora.


Herbs or shrubs. Leaves opposite or rarely alternate, entire toothed lobed or variously divided. Flowers usually in few- or many-flowered umbels on axillary peduncles, irregular. Sepals 5, the uppermost produced into a short spur adnate to the pedicel. Petals 5 or fewer by abortion, the 2 upper different from the others and usually larger. Disc without glands. Stamens 10, hypogynous, connate at the base, 5–7 (rarely fewer) fertile, the remainder without anthers or rudimentary. Ovary 5-lobed, 5-celled, beaked; beak terminated by 5 short styles, which are longitudinally stigmatose; ovules 2 in each cell. Capsule splitting into 5 carpels with long styles, which roll up elastically; seeds 1 in each carpel.

Species about 180, the whole of which are natives of South Africa except 3 found in North Africa and the Levant, and 2 in Australia and New Zealand.

1. P. australe, Jacq. Eclog. t. 100.—A decumbent or erect simple or branched more or less hairy herb 6-18 in. high; rootstock stout. Leaves on slender petioles 2–6 in. long; blade 1–2 in. diam., ovate-cordate or orbicular-cordate, obscurely 3–5-lobed; lobes finely crenate-serrate, obtuse; stipules broad. Peduncles longer than the leaves; umbels 10–12-flowered. Flowers small, ¼–⅓ in. diam., pink. Sepals ovate, acute, hairy; spur usually very short. Petals from ⅓ to ½ as long again as the sepals, spathulate, notched. Fertile stamens 5, the remainder reduced to membranous scale-like staminodia. Carpels very hairy, their beaks long, lined on the inner face with long soft white hairs.—Benth. Fl. Austral. i. 298; Kirk, Students' Fl. 82. P. australe var. clandestinum, Hook. f. Handb. N.Z. Fl. 37. P. clandestinum, L'Herit ex D.C. Prodr. i. 160; A. Cunn. Precur. n. 595; Raoul, Choix, 47; Hook. f. Fl. Nov. Zel. i. 41.

North and South Islands, Stewart Island, Chatham Islands: Abundant throughout, ascending to 2000 ft. Kopata. November–February.

Also found in Australia and Tasmania, and in Tristan d'Acunha, and probably identical with the South African P. grossularioides, Ait.

3. OXALIS, Linn.

Herbs, stemless or caulescent. Leaves all radical or alternate, compound, usually 3-foliolate, stipulate or exstipulate. Flowers regular, on axillary 1-or more-flowered peduncles. Sepals 5, imbricate. Petals 5, hypogynous, contorted. Disc without glands. Stamens 10, free or connate at the base, all anther-bearing. Ovary 5-lobed, 5-celled; styles 5, distinct; ovules 1 or more in each cell. Capsule loculicidally dehiscing, the valves persistent on the axis. Seeds with an outer fleshy coat which bursts elastically; testa crustaceous; albumen fleshy.

A large genus of over 200 species, chiefly found in South America and South Africa, with a few widely dispersed in most parts of the world.

Stem elongated. Peduncles axillary, 1-6-flowered. Flowers yellow 1. O. corniculata.
Stem short or wanting. Peduncles radical, 1-flowered. Flowers white 2. O. magellanica.

1. O. corniculata, Linn. Sp. Plant. 435.—A prostrate, decumbent or ascending, glabrous or pubescent, much-branched perennial 2–12 in. long; stems often matted. Leaves alternate, on long or short petioles, 3-foliolate; leaflets broadly obcordate, very variable in size, 1/8–1 in. long, glaucous beneath. Stipules minute, adnate to the petiole or wanting. Peduncles axillary, 1–6-flowered, about as long as the petioles. Flowers yellow, variable in size. Sepals acute or obtuse. Petals obcordate, notched. Capsule oblong or linear, subcylindric; seeds few or many in each cell.—Hook. f. Fl. Nov. Zel. i. 42; Handb. N.Z. Fl. 38; Benth. Fl. Austral. i. 301; Kirk, Students' Fl. 83.

Var. a.—Decumbent. Leaves stipulate. Capsules ½–1 in. long, downy.

Var. b, stricta, Hook. f. Fl. Nov. Zel. i. 42.—Erect or suberect. Stipules wanting. Flowers small. Capsules large.—O. stricta, Linn. Sp. Plant. 435. O. Urvillei, propinqua, divergens, lacicola, A. Cunn. Precur. n. 584, 586, 588, 590.

Var. c, microphylla, Hook. f. l.c.—Stems procumbent, slender, rooting. Leaflets usually minute. Capsule oblong.—O. exilis, A. Cunn. l.c. n. 587.

Var. d, ciliifera, Hook. f. l.c.—Stems procumbent, filiform, matted. Leaflets membranous, ciliated.—O. tenuicaulis and O. ciliifera, A. Cunn. l.c. n. 589, 591.

Var. e, crassifolia, Hook. f. l.c.—Stems rigid, matted. Leaflets small, thick, pilose.—O. crassifolia, A. Cunn. l.c. n. 592.

Kermadec Islands, North and South Islands: Abundant throughout, chiefly in lowland situations.

One of the most widely diffused and variable plants known, found in almost all temperate and tropical countries.

2. O. magellanica, Forst. in Comm. Gotting. ix. (1789) 33.—A small glabrous or pubescent almost stainless herb 2–4 in. high; rootstock creeping, scaly. Leaves all radical, on long slender hairy petioles, trifoliolate; leaflets obcordate, glabrous, glaucous beneath. Peduncles radical, long and slender, often exceeding the leaves, 2-bracteolate above the middle, 1-flowered. Flowers rather large, pure white, ⅓–½ in. diam. Sepals small, ovate, obtuse. Petals obovate or obcordate, often oblique. Capsule globose.—Hook. f. Fl. Antarct. ii. 253; Fl. Nov. Zel. i. 42, t. 13; Handb. N.Z. Fl. 38; Benth. Fl. Austral. i. 300; Kirk, Students' Fl. 84. O. cataractæ, A. Cunn. Precur. n. 585; Hook. Ic. Plant. t. 418; Raoul, Choix, 47.

North and South Islands: From Mongonui and Kaitaia southwards, in damp and shaded or subalpine localities. Sea-level to fully 4000 ft. Also in Australia, Tasmania, Chili, and Fuegia, and closely allied to the common O. acetosella of the Northern Hemisphere.