This pretty, wild geranium grows over much of southern Australia. It is a low-growing, spreading perrenial herb with a fleshy taproot. According to my “Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants” Vol 7, Aborigines once used the root of this species as a food source.
The genus name Pelargonium comes from the Greek word pelargos meaning “a stork” referring to the fruit which is shaped like a stork (to some eyes anyway). The species name australe, meaning southern, refers to the distribution.
Pelargonium australe was named by Carl Ludwig Willdenow (1765 – 1812), an important German botanist. Carl Linnaeus, the father of the binomial system of nomenclature (i.e. a genus and species name for each different plant) had described the genus Geranium and recognised those with seven, five and 10 fertile stamens, but it was Willdenow in 1801 who transferred this species into the genus that had by then become known as Pelargonium (distinguished by seven fertile stamens).
In this close-up image of the flower you can clearly see the 7 stamens. (Note: a fertile stamen is one whose anther – top bit supported by the filament – produces pollen. You can’t tell if the stamens are fertile from this pic).
Most parts of this plant are incredibly hairy, including the leaf, which is often coloured red on the margin. The leaves can vary from 2 to 6 cm wide. In the image on the right, you can see the hairy sepals (purple) and pedicels (flower stalks) which are about 2cm long. The flowers are only about 1 cm across. The flowers occur in terminal umbels (clusters) of between 4 to 20.
The plant has a low spreading habit, and for the duration of our stay on the island, its colourful flowers decorated the rock wall marking the entrance track of our home, Q2. I also saw it on all the tracks, including to the summit, the steep path down to the gulch and the very exposed track under the Lighthouse. Very happy to report that a seedling from the “Plants of Tasmania Nursery” in Ridgeway (Hobart) is now growing very happily in my garden here in the Blue Mts. The link to their website is http://www.potn.com.au/
Here is the page from my Maatsuyker Island workbook for this species. The drawing and painting are still works in progress.