About the Plant
Pelargonium sidoides, a member of the geranium family, is a small, perennial herb with twisted, tuberous red roots and dark magenta flowers. The long-stalked, grey-green leaves are mildly aromatic, heart-shaped and velvety. The distinctive dark, reddish-purple flowers are present almost throughout the year, but occur mostly from late spring to summer (October - January), with a peak in midsummer (December).
The system of thickened, underground, root-like branches is a special adaptation that enables the plant to survive grass fires, which occur almost annually over much of its range. The medicinal and commercial value of this plant lies in the active compounds (umckalin and coumarins) of its tuberous roots.
Pelargonium sidoides is endemic to South Africa and Lesotho and found nowhere else on Earth. It usually grows in short grasslands and, at times, on stony soil, varying from sand to clay loam, shale or basalt, at altitudes ranging from near sea level to 2 300 m. The plant is found in areas that receive rainfall in summer (November to March), varying from 200 - 800 mm per annum.
This species can be difficult to distinguish from Pelargonium reniformia, which grows in a similar area, but tends to have more kidney-shaped leaves and bright pink flowers.