So….I’m taking a plant identification class taught by a well-known San Francisco plant guru and today we learned about a type of geranium known as the rose geranium, or botanically as Pelargonium graveolens. A geranium? Really? I used to pick caterpillars off them as a kid and put them in my bug farm. They smelled bad, but were the best place in the neighborhood to find a caterpillar. I’m not sure what kind of geraniums we had when I was young, but they were definitely not Rose geraniums. These things smell wonderful. I couldn’t take it away from my nose all throughout class. Simply wonderful.
Then we began discussing this geranium and it turns out that it can be somewhat of an anti-depressant. What went through my head when I heard this: “You don’t say? This is a week from hell for me…I’ll just sniff in some of it’s amazing fragrance all throughout class.” So I did. But our teacher also told us that in some people this plant can cause disrupted sleep patterns, excessive hyperactivity, and perhaps even heart palpitations. Really? This rather benign-looking geranium can really do all that? But it smells so good! (To be honest, I didn’t care too much for the smell the first time. It reminded me of the scents they put in laundry detergents that that I don’t particularly care for. But then I smelled it again and was hooked).
The beautiful scent alone is just part of the greatness of this plant. It also has the power to reduce inflammation and control bleeding. It’s oils are used in aroma therapy. You can eat the flowers raw, make tea with the fresh leaves, or even use the leaves to add flavor to cakes and jams.
I didn’t think just smelling a cut piece occasionally over the course of an hour could cause one to feel its effects, but it’s now almost 1 a.m. and I’m wide awake. No heart palpitations, I’m not too hyper, but I know my sleep schedule will be very affected. I have to be up at 6 to go on a 4-day field trip with my students – four non-stop days of activities. I’ll be exhausted in the morning….that is, until I find my sample of Pelargonium graveolens from tonight’s class. While I’m a big fan of native gardens, I now can’t imagine my yard not having this plant. Oh well, it’s native to somewhere, right? (S. Africa to be exact.)