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Herb Robert - Geranium robertianum

Herb Robert flowers

Herb Robert flowers

Other Names of Herb Robert

  • Red Robin
  • Death Come Quickly
  • Stinky Bob
  • Stork's Bill
  • Cuckoo's Eye
  • Bloodwort
  • Crow's Foot
  • Dove's Foot

While weeding the garden by hand, I came across a plant with red stems, hairy forked leaves with red edges and tiny 5-petalled pink flowers.

It pulled out of the ground easily, proving that it is shallow-rooted.

What struck me about Geranium robertianum was the aromatic scent from its leaves.

The scent was immediately released as I held it in my hand, and was strong, herbal and not unpleasant.

I have since read that Geranium robertianum is also known as 'Stinky Bob' which seems a bit unfair as the smell could not be described as 'stinky'.

Aromatic best describes it, but I can't place it any better than that.

Herb Robert is the common term for this plant which is a member of the cranesbill family.

The name Herb Robert tells us two things. It has been used historically as a herb, and most likely by someone named Robert.

Just who that Robert is remains a mystery.

Some say Robert was a 12th century French monk who used Geranium robertianum to cure illnesses and disease.

Yet others say the Robert refers to the 12th century Duke of Normandy.

The most widely held belief is that Herb Robert was named after Robin Goodfellow (Robin is a diminutive of Robert), the mischievous sprite (Puck) of old English folklore brought to life by William Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Herb Robert

Herb Robert

Growing Conditions of Herb Robert

Herb Robert is mischievous.

Not just invasive, Geranium robertianum is frequently referred to as a noxious weed.

It reproduces by seed which are easily carried away by the wind and spread far and wide. The flowers are both self-fertile and open to pollinators.

The absence of bees and other insects would not stop it from seeding.

It is both annual and biennial, and flowers from late Spring through to Fall.

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It will grow happily in both strong sunlight and full shade.

It's leaves and stems are photosensitive. They will turn red the more exposed they are to sunlight.

When Herb Robert is found in dense woodland, the plant is all-green.


  • Hedgerows
  • Rocky, exposed areas
  • Woodland
  • Moist habitats
  • Dry habitats
  • Coastal regions
  • Mountainous areas
  • Alkaline neutral or acidic areas.

Many books state that Herb Robert does not grow in acidic soils, but it does. My garden's soil is acidic and it flourishes, when allowed to do so.

Geranium robertianum

Geranium robertianum

Medicinal Uses of Geranium robertianum

Herb Robert has a wide range of medicinal uses, or has traditionally been used for a wide range of medical conditions.

The leaves were infused into a tea which can either be consumed or applied to the skin, or a poultice can be made from them.

This is supposed to help:

Eye inflammations - a cooled tea infusion of Herb Robert can be dropped on to the eye to reduce inflammation and bring cool relief.

Skin Wash - reduces inflammation caused by burns, infection or injury.

Stems bleeding - either applied directly to the wound or taken internally for internal bleeding, Herb Robert is said to help the blood to clot and stop blood flows.

Cures throat, mouth and gum infections - used as a mouth wash or gargle, Herb Robert tea is said to help.

Cancer cure - yes folks it's another natural remedy for certain types of cancers because it contains a substance called geraniin.

Stops diarrhoea

Is an antioxidant with anti-viral and antibiotic properties - drunk as an infusion, Herb Robert promotes well-being and good health.

Lowers blood sugars - clinical trials have shown this to be true, but further studies need to be carried out.

Relieves aching joints - is said to be of especial use for rheumatism sufferers when applied as a poultice.

Diuretic - it is mildly diuretic and is said to have been used in come countries to treat kidney infections.

close-up of hairy leaf of Herb Robert

close-up of hairy leaf of Herb Robert

Herb Robert as a mosquito repellent

Crush up the stems and leaves of Herb Robert and apply to exposed skin to fend off mosquitoes.

Speaking as someone whose blood seems to be especially attractive to mosquitoes, I would love to know if this works.

It is certainly something for me to try. I have been known to try a lot of mosquito repellent 'cures', most of which fail miserably.

if anyone has tried this, please fill in the poll provided on this page.


Food Forager on July 01, 2014:

i regularly consume Herb Roberts. Am quite happy that he suddenly appeared in our forest.

i have limited success with using the herb as insect repellent. When i heavily sweat, nothing works. But if i can keep my body heat and perspiration down, then Herb Robert has helped some.

Use the most pungent leaves you can find. For me this is those who grow in sun, and those who have begun turning red. They can get pretty stinky in full sun. The taste is somewhat unpleasent as well. But i like the taste of those who grow in shade. It makes sense to me that the stinky sunny plants are what works best for repellent.

Dennis Hoyman from Southwestern, Pennsylvania on April 11, 2014:

Hi GardenExpert999

This is a great hub about the herb Robert isn't herb Robert a scented Geranium? Thanks for the information great hub! Keep up the great work! Gardener Den.

GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on May 28, 2013:

Thanks DF, nice one!

@Imogen, you may be right, as the leaves never seem to be chewed on like other plants or weeds. As Herb Robert is so common, I would appreciate someone's else's opinion of its smell. I can't place it, but it smells like it belongs in the herb garden.

Jill Spencer from United States on May 27, 2013:

Enjoyed the hub & shared it. Good one!

Imogen French from Southwest England on May 27, 2013:

Most geraniums have quite a distinct smell, so it must have some advantage to the plant. I would guess to stop it being eaten by herbivores.

GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on May 27, 2013:

It was the scent of it that made me go look it up. As you know, most weeds have no scent so you wonder what the smell is for? Perhaps it is to ward off predators, and if it has predators, what goodness does it have inside to make something want to eat it? It has the ability to self-pollinate, so the smell would not be to attract pollinators. I still don't know to be honest, but it is good to know it has tried and tested medicinal uses and that it is not poisonous. Especially when it is so common!

Imogen French from Southwest England on May 27, 2013:

What an interesting hub - I had never considered the medicinal uses of herb Robert. It is rather prolific in my garden, so might have to give some of them a go. I don't mind them coming up here and there in my flower beds as I think they are quite a pretty weed, but they also seem to grow quite happily out of a crack in the path, and self-seed in flower pots and the vegetable plot - like you say, they are quite invasive! thanks for some interesting facts :)

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