Geranium "Meeboldii"

Allan Robinson , UK



A few years ago, Marisa, our webmaster, mentioned a Geranium she had raised from Geraniaceae Group seed. Her photograph of Geranium meeboldii  was identical to a plant I had purchased under the same name. For a number of years now Geranium meeboldii  has appeared in nursery lists around the world. The name gives the impression of a species fairly new to cultivation; the specific epithet commemorates the collector. We soon came to realise that this plant needed further investigation. 

   Alfred Karl Meebold was born near Württemberg in Germany during September 1863. During his lifetime he developed an interest in plants and became a self taught botanist. He loved to travel to foreign lands and during his life he made three journeys to India between 1904 and 1912, where Geranium meeboldii  was collected.

  Geranium meeboldii  was described in 1908 commemorating Meebold but today the name is just a synonym for Geranium himalayense  which was described in 1862 by Johann Friedrich Klotzsch.(Klotzsch and Garcke).  Under the rules of Botanical Nomenclature, the earliest published description takes precedence. Other synonyms for Geranium himalayense  are G. grandiflorum, G. grandiflorum  var. alpinum  and even G. collinum  var. alpinum. Geranium himalayense  produces blue flowers with some red flushing towards the centre, the petals are nicely veined.

  Once growing in the garden, the flowers and leaves of this recently acquired Geranium meeboldii  start to ring warning bells. The flowers are white, sometimes the flower opens a blush pink and then fades to white and occasionally the pink is quite persistent in some clones. This may be due to weather conditions; cool moist days tend to keep the petals blush pink whereas hot and sunny ones leave the flowers white. The leaves of this plant are also deeply divided (as shown in Marisa’s photograph and the silhouette), a second reason for doubting that this plant has any connection to Geranium himalayense (G.meeboldii).  


Geranium "Meeboldii" blooming in Alessandria, Italy June 2010 - photos (& blurring...)  Marisa Amadio 

  I started to investigate this plant in an effort to discover its true identity without very much success. Then I mentioned the problem to David Victor, the Geranium Registrar and learned he had suspected the plant to be an imposter a few years previously. With amazing luck, David managed to have the plant identified by Dr Peter Yeo at Cambridge Botanic Garden before Peter died a few years ago. Peter identified the plant as a form of Geranium collinum.  Originally it had been collected by the famous Czech plant hunter, Josef Jurasek, while searching in the Pamir Mountains. Sadly it has been mis-identified at some stage, once in cultivation.

(It has come to my attention that seed of this plant was sold by more than one Czech Collector, as they often combined forces when travelling to remote areas).

  Geranium collinum  grows in China and Mongolia, then heads westward through Central Asia, (taking in Pakistan but not India) onwards to the Russian Federation, the Ukraine and finally Romania. As Meebold collected in India, he wouldn’t have gone far enough North or East to enable contact with this species. With such a widespread species a fair degree of variability can be expected, I find this particular form quite compact and well behaved.

  Alfred Meebold was well versed in other subjects as well as Botany and made his living in different ways, particularly as an essayist, lecturer, novelist and poet. In 1938, while living in Hungary, Meebold almost certainly guessed what was coming and made the decision to emigrate to New Zealand, one of the countries he had visited earlier in his life. He arrived in Honolulu en route but was detained due to the outbreak of war, not arriving in New Zealand until hostilities were over in 1945. He died there some years later in 1952. Alfred Meebold studied plants in a vast number of countries worldwide, too many to mention here.

  Apart from the Geranium, his name lives on in the genus Meeboldina  (endemic to Western Australia) plus the species Acacia meeboldii  and Darwinia meeboldii.

  I have included a photocopy of the leaf silhouette of my Geranium “meeboldii”  which is in fact Geranium collinum (sold as Geranium meeboldii). So if your white or blush pink flowered G. meeboldii  produces the deeply cut leaves of Geranium collinum  shown here, then you need to re-label.

Geranium collinum (sold as Geranium meeboldii) leaf silhouette

Allan Robinson and Marisa Amadio,    November 2015  

(The use of double inverted commas around a plant name indicates that the name is dubious or incorrect).



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