Storksbill High Quality
Other members of the geranium family called the cranesbills also have these seed pods, but storksbill is the only one that has the unique habit of changing its bird-like seedpod into a corkscrew shape and screwing itself into the ground to deposit its seeds firmly. The Spanish name alfilerillo, as well as the English name filaree both, come from the Latin word filum meaning thread, due to the almost thread-like delicate leaves of storksbill.
As a medicine, both the leaves and the root of storksbill are useful due to being astringent; the root is a strong astringent while the leaves are a less aggressive astringent. Astringents cool, tighten and reduce inflammation in the tissues with which they come into contact.
Astringents from herbs can be gentle or aggressive. Gentle astringents, such as rose petals, can be used in the eyes to reduce irritation and redness or as cosmetics to tighten and smooth the skin of the face. Stronger astringents, such as storksbill root can be used to treat sunburn, diarrhea and hemorrhoids, as a sitz bath for postpartum moms, and even as a tanning agent for leather. Astringents have an antiseptic property because they "denature" the protein cell wall of many bacteria, causing their demise by inhibiting the bacterium from taking on nutrients and excreting wastes.
BiologyOriginBoth storksbill (Erodium cicutarium) and musky storksbill (Erodium moschatum) originated in Eurasia and North Africa
Storksbill is a weed of arable land, poor pasture, dry tussock and grassland, and is locally common in drier coastal and lowland areas of both the North and South Islands and the Chathams
Musky storksbill inhabits wetter areas and is found in pastures, waste areas and roadsides, mostly in the upper North Island but can be found as far south as Canterbury and the West Coast.
Life cycleBoth species are autumn germinating plants, flowering between September and May
They behave as annuals, flowering and setting seed over an extended period during summer and autumn and within a year of germinating
Musky storksbill, in particular, can have long, branched flower stems leading to dense exclusive patches of the weed.
BenefitsThere are few benefits to these two weeds:
ImpactsImpact on pastureStorksbill usually only invades run-out and poor, dry pastures and is seldom a problem
Musky storksbill, being a more robust plant that grows well in higher rainfall areas, is more competitive to pasture. It can form dense mats which stock avoid and can clog up hay-making machinery. It can be a serious weed in establishing pastures and forage crops.
Impact on stockAfter being used to propel the seed away from the parent plant, the long tail-like appendage on the seed winds up like a corkscrew and periodic wetting (dew) and drying (sunshine) can unwind and wind this spring forcing the seed into the ground. Unfortunately the seed has a very sharp point and this same motion can force the seed through the skin or into the eyes and mouths of animals. Woolly sheep are particularly prone to this.
Impact on crops and in gardensBoth species can take up space and deprive desirable plants of water and nutrients, especially open crops such as brassicas (e.g. turnips and kale) and chicory.
ControlGrazing managementBeing rosette plants, storksbills are not good candidates for managing through grazing. However, maintaining a good strong, uniform pasture will reduce their establishment.
Chemical controlStorksbills are tolerant to many herbicides and the ability to control large plants in pasture, without also causing severe damage to clovers, is very difficult
Storksbills are more susceptible as small seedlings where they can be controlled with bentazone and proprietary mixes of bentazone + flumetsulam and bentazone + MCPB.
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