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ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GERANIUMS AND PELARGONIUMS

(Known since, 1850)  

from (Gard. Jour., 1850, p. 467)  found & copied by Wayne Handlos

< 1. ‘Peacock’ (left),  2. ‘Ariel’ (top), 3. ‘Prince of Wales’ (right)

 

 < ‘Hero of Surrey’ (top)  ‘Defiance’ (bottom)       

  < 'Dandy' (top),  ‘Loveliness’ (center),  'Bonnie Lassie' (bottom)                                                                             

  < ‘Centurion’ (upper) ‘Honora’ (lower)  

< ‘Ondine’ (upper),  ‘Emperor of Morocco’  (lower)

 

<‘Topping’s Brilliant’ and ‘Elegans’                                                                                                                                                    

  

‘Star’ (top left), ‘Mont Blanc’ (center), ‘Princess’ (bottom right)

    <‘Negress’    *

"The most beautiful of flowers is, by common consent, the rose; one of the next is,

perhaps, the Pelargonium. The rose has the advantage of all others in possessing a

sweet scent; but in the beauty of color it shares with many, for the various shades of

red are all more or less beautiful, and not merely because they are good contrasts to

green, for in that case they would not be beautiful alone, which they decidedly are.

Now beauty of color, like that of form, is of two kinds,—that which is primitive or

intrinsic, and that which is secondary or representative. The beauty of pink and

rose-color, or light red, is in most flowers, and in many other cases, only secondary

or imitative, because it represents what in fruit is indicative of perfection and ripeness,

qualities which are esteemed useful or afford wholesome gratification. The

same color is esteemed beautiful when it graces the object of man’s highest admiration;

for then it is a mark of health and pleasure, especially when not heightened beyond

what the poet calls the “bloom of young desire, the purple light of love.” It is,

therefore, the associations that attend the appearance of this color in flowers to

which their beauty is to be attributed, as, in poetry, that language is the most admired

which expresses itself with the most apt allusions. Many varieties of Pelargoniums

possess various shades of pink and rose color, hence their preëminent beauty;

and it is among these beautiful varieties that I have chiefly observed a peculiar circumstance,

which I thought sufficiently remarkable to be described to the members

of this society, and their friends, especially as it will give me an opportunity of explaining

to some amongst you, who may not have forgotten the old name Geranium,

why that name is no longer used for florists’ flowers. Indeed, it will be necessary to

refer to the distinguishing marks of the Geranium and Pelargonium to render the

value of my observations obvious. The old genus Geranium is now considered a

natural order, and the peculiar form of the fruit is its most remarkable character, being

elongated like a crane’s beak. This natural order is divided into five genera; one

of these genera, called Rhyncotheca, has no petals, and is therefore easily known;

it contains only two species. Another is called Monsonia; this has fifteen stamens,

mostly divided into five clusters, and petals with jagged edges; otherwise

much resembling the true Geranium. The other three genera are distinguished

partly by their mode of growth; two of them, Erodium and Geranium, consisting

of soft herbaceous plants, examples of them are found chiefly among the wild

European and English weeds: and the third is a group of stronger shrubby plants,

having woody perennial stems; these are natives of Africa only, and mostly of the

southern parts, near the Cape of Good Hope, and are now called Pelargoniums.

The great resemblance of the three genera to each other is pointed out by their

Latin names, thus:—Erodium, from єρоδίоς, a heron; Geranium, in Greek

Γєρανίоν, from γερανος, a crane; and Pelargonium, from πελαργος, a stork;

because, as I before observed, the fruit resembles the beaks and heads of those

birds. The distinction between geranium and pelargonium is a strictly natural

one, and what every gardener will admit. He has been, therefore, ready enough to

adopt a new name; and without burthening his memory to distinguish between a

crane’s bill, a stork’s bill, or a heron’s bill, he satisfies himself with the Latin

name Pelargonium, which he applies at once to his favorite plants. But as the

mode of growth is very variable, botanists have endeavored to point out some

fixed character by which the genus may be determined,—a character to be taken

from the flower or fruit. And in the case of Pelargonium they seemed to be

eminently successful, for in Pelargonium, with its shrubby mode of growth and

truss of flowers, was found a peculiar form of flower, with two large upper petals

and three smaller petals below, the stamens all turned downwards, and only seven

of them perfect; and besides this, a tubular nectary, commencing at the base of the

upper stamens, and continued down and attached to the flower-stalk, and ending

in a rounded swelling, which is easily seen in the flowers before you. I should

observe also that the two upper petals are generally marked with a deep-colored

spot. On the other hand, both the Erodium and Geranium have equal petals, five

or ten perfect stamens, and no nectary or honey-tube penetrating the flower-stock.

Thus Pelargonium appears to be a good or well-defined artificial, as well as

natural, genus or group. But the gardener, when he finds, as in this case, nothing

but external beauty to recommend a plant, endeavors by selecting what he

considers the most perfect, and then cultivating it highly, to increase in the

succeeding produce both the beauty of color and of form; and as the beauty of

form depends upon the same elements as that of color,—that is, upon the perfect

adaptation to the end, or the resemblance to that adaptation,—so the full round

form is especially aimed at by the cultivator of flower; and the Pelargonium

fancier endeavors to obtain five broad and equal petals to form a round flower,

and the upper two, deeply and brilliantly colored as a contrast to the three lower

and light colored ones; but with all his care, the flowers are not constant, and now

and then one will play the truant, or sport, as he calls it; and this commonly takes

place amongst the most petted or highest cultivated varieties, where the color

seems to defy control and becomes vagrant, especially in the upper petals, from

which it sometimes absolutely departs altogether, as in some of the flowers before

you. ‘Ondine’ (upper), (Gard. Jour., 1850, p. 467)"

[I hope it is obvious that the preceding article was not written by the Editor and that you

will indulge the quaint Victorian English. It is included here to show how long writers

have been trying to make the distinction between Pelargonium and Geranium. The foregoing

was originally published in the Gard. Journal, 1850, page 467 (London) and then

reproduced in The Magazine of Horticulture, Botany, and all Useful Discoveries and Improvements

in Rural Affairs, Vol. XVI, 1850, pages 419-421, published in Boston, USA.]

[The following appeared originally in the Gardener’s Chronicle, 1850, p. 455, published in

England and then reproduced in The Magazine of Horticulture, …, pages 421-422 in

Boston.]

ROSES AND PELARGONIUMS WHICH OBTAINED THE PRIZES at the last

exhibition of the London Horticultural Society in July. …

Pelargoniums were much finer than they are usually seen in July. Messrs.

Stains’ and Parker’s plants were in first-rate condition, and covered with large

fresh flowers. The fancies were not so gay as we have seen them earlier in the

season.

Plants in 11-inch pots. Mr. Parker had Rosetta, Pearl, Emperor, Louisa,

Rosy Circle and Armada. Mr. Stains, Armada, Centurion, Lamartine, Armada

superb, Gulielma and Pearl. Nurserymen: Mr. Gaines sent Meleager, Negress,

Chieftain, Lord Warden, Oriflame and Rosy Circle.

Six plants in 8-inch pots: Mr. Stains produced Constance, Brilliant

(Topping,) Narcissus, Ariel, Conspicuum and Pearl. Mr. Cock, Centurion, Sundown,

Star, Meleager, Ondine, and Sikh. Mr. Robinson, Mars, Cassandra,

Senata, Paragon, Ariel, Rowena. Nurserymen: Mr. Beck had Governor, Painter,

Cuyp, Vanguard, Loveliness and Star. Mr. Bragg, Ondine, Conspicuum. Alderman,

Azure, Voltigeur and Countess of Sefton. Mr. Gaines, Aspasia, Star, Mars,

Flying Dutchman, Excelsa and Marchioness of Stafford.

Fancy Pelargoniums.—Mr. Stains sent Hero of Surrey, Reine des Français,

Magnifica, Queen Superb, Bouquet tout fait and Fairy Queen. Mr Gaines,

Wintonia, Orestes, Fairy Queen, Reine des Français, Alboni and Hero of Surrey.

Mr. Ambrose, Juno, Pilot, Enchantress, Magnet, Standard, and Pride of Surrey.—

(Gard. Chron., 1850, p. 455.)

[I think it is also worth noting that at the end of page two the author mentions the sporting

nature of what we would now consider regal Pelargoniums. It seems clear that they were

observing the chimeral compostion of the cultivars available in the mid-1800’s. Again,

this is an indication of how long this condition has been part of the Pelargonium scene. I

am also impressed at how quickly the information from gardening events in England

were available and published in the US. Editor]

*Sources of illustrations:

Page 1—Floral Cabinet , 1847, p. 193

Page 2—top, Florist , 1853, p. 217; middle Flore des serre…, 1848, v. 4, pl. 319; bottom, Floral

Magazine, 1862, v. 2, p. 83

Page 3—top, Floral Magazine, v. 1, p 221; middle, Floral Magazine, v. 1, p. 320; bottom, Floral

Magazine, 1867, v. 6, p. 334.

Page 4—Florist and Fruitist, 1858, v. 11, p. 320

 

 

       

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