Redstem Filaree

Another very early spring wildflower, or weed depending on your point of view, is the redstem filaree (Erodium cicutarium). This member of the geranium family was introduced from Europe. On unirrigated land it is a palatable forage plant, especially in the spring. On cultivated land it crowds out valuable crops and is considered a weed.

An annual or winter biennial, filaree has feather like, deeply lobed leaves that usually arise from a rosette. The purplish-pink flowers have five petals and arise at the end of leafless, red flower stalks. Both the leaves and flower stems are hairy. At the end of each sepal are one or two short bristles. The early spring leaves are close to the ground and can spread to cover a large area. As the plant matures it often assumes a more upright look. The fruit is unusually long and needle like giving rise to the other common names, stork’s bill and pingrass. I will share pictures of the fruit/seeds later in the season.

The leaves, particularly when still tender in the spring, are palatable and can be used to impart a sharp accent to salads. The flavor is described as similar to parsley. I would not use that comparison, nor do I collect filaree for salads. Nibbling a leaf or two as I walk is enough for me.

Considered a mild herb, redstem filaree was used in Mexico to control hemorrhage  and infection following childbirth. In Chinese medicine it is used to treat kidney and urinary tract diseases.

These pictures were taken near our house (Lookout CA). The leaves, since it is so early in the spring, are not fully developed, nor have they begun to spread. The bristles on the tips of the sepals are visible on the flower closeup. Leonard, responsible for our pastures, considers redstem filaree (I like the sound of that word!) a weed. I consider it a pretty, purple-pink wildflower that brightens my early spring walks. It all depends on perspective.

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