PELARGONIUM PROFILE –PELARGONIUM OBLONGATUM
By Dr. Wayne Handlos
Pelargonium oblongatum lowers Stem, leaves & persistent leaf bases Typical P. oblongatum from
illustration in Van der Walt 1977
Some years ago I bought several Pelargonium plants from Dr. Robin Parer including one labeled
P. oblongatum. The plant has thrived for me – proving its toughness. I have enjoyed the once yearly
display of flowers which are larger and more showy than those of many of the true species.
A large number of pinkish flowers are produced each spring by this plant which is summer
Only this year did I become aware that the flower color of my plant was not typical for this
species. The usual flower color is pale yellow with red/purple lines on the two, large, upper
petals. On my plant the flowers are distinctly a light pink with reddish purple veins in the two
upper petals. Each flower has a long nectar tube which presumably contains a sweet reward for
a pollinator – probably a “long-nosed fly”.
As far as I can tell, all the other characteristics of this plant are the same as the typical P. oblongatum.
The tuber is elongate, smooth, partially above ground, with perisitent, dried leaves and leaf
Am I excited that I’ve got something new and different? No, not really. But here is something
that merits some further study.
Is this just a naturally occurring color variant? Such variants are widespread in many species of
flowering plants including various species of Pelargonium. Such variants have been sought by
plant collectors over the centuries and account for many of our garden cultivars.
Or is this some kind of hybrid with the pink color introduced from another parent? Hybrids
occur occasionally in nature including some between various species of Pelargonium. Many (if
not most) of the new introductions by the large commercial horticulture/floriculture companies
are newly synthesized hybrids – selected for desirable characteristics.
Or is this a chance mutation or “sport”? A mutation or sport is a change in the genetic makeup
of the plant which modifies it usual characteristics. Such changes are known as the source
of many Pelargonium cultivars.
I don’t know the answer to the questions I have just posed but with study we could probably
determine the correct answer. What a wonderful project for a dedicated high school or college