From the Greek - Erodios - a heron, hence the common name Heronsbill.

The flowers of Erodium, which have five fertile stamens, are sometimes regular or have five petals with the two upper slightly larger that the other three. The awns that are attached to the seed, coil tightly on separation, helping them to 'spring' a considerable distance from the parent plant.

Whilst Erodiums are fairly widely distributed over the temperate regions of the world they are rarely found in South Africa.

Unfortunately at least four are classified as weeds in Australia - a major problem for sheep farmers as the spirally coiled awns form a large percentage of burr in the fleece.

The majority of desirable garden species and cultivars tend to be small plants, useful for rockery or container growing. Most have a preference for well drained and limey, rather than acid soils.

Erodium chrysanthum (pictured), from Greece and Albania, one of the prettiest of the genus, is grown commercially as 'Spanish Eyes'.