What’s the story of Herb Robert at the Arboretum?

July 16th, 2010 by UWBG Horticulturist

On July 14 a UWBG Facebook fan asked us what’s the story of Herb Robert at the Arboretum. UWBG Horticulturalist, David Zuckerman, replies with background information and his personal experience with this stinky weed.

Herb Robert, aka, Stinking Robert. Geranium robertianum is an escaped ornamental herbaceous perennial native to Europe. It has quite a history of folklore and medicinal uses. It is a class B noxious weed in Washington(1998?) and first seen in our state in 1911, Klickitat. Due to its ubiquitous nature in King County, control is currently not required. King County Noxious Weed board strongly encourages and recommends control and containment of existing populations and discourages new plantings.

Personally, my encounters and observations of Bob in the arboretum from 1982 to present:

Started innocently enough as a lovely, cute little scented geranium  and quickly spread into our most troublesome forest shade herbaceous monster in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Now, due to a vigorous weed control program, we have actually reduced its seed bank (from whence it spreads by catapulting tiny black seeds that attach themselves on a filament on the undersides of our Rhododendrons and other forest plant collections and natives).  After hand pulling this weed for many a year, it is NOT recommended to leave one’s gloves hanging indoors to dry out, for the following day you will be hit by a most obnoxious odor reminiscent of the worst possible case of sock and shoe malodorous!

Want to join the fight against invasive weeds in the Arboretum? Volunteer as a Gardener Assistant – we could use your help!