Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Stinky Bob September 15, 2008

In a previous post about weeds, I mentioned one called Herb Robert, or Geranium robertianum. I feel a little sorry for whichever Robert it’s named for, since the other common name is Stinky Bob.

It’s a cute little member of the geranium family which escaped from gardens and has taken over a lot of space, at least in my area (Pacific Northwest). A few at a time are easy to pull up, but if they take over a large area, they choke out the native plants and it’s hard to get rid of. Plus, the smell is really unpleasant; I’m not sure what to compare it to – that rotting container of leftovers that got lost at the back of the fridge for too long, maybe? It’s not really like anything else I’ve ever smelled, for which I suppose I should be thankful. The odor stays on your hands after you touch the plant too, so it should be handled with gloves.

Here’s a photo of one in my garden, just before I ripped it out. It looks kind of nice at the edge of the path with the sarcococca, too bad it’s a weed.

Herb Robert

It likes to hide in spaces that are hard for me to get to, like the top of the rock wall in back of the papyrus blades that always cut me up if I forget to wear long sleeves around them. This one is turning pretty fall colors and has probably already distributed a ton of seeds for next spring.

Herb Robert Turning Colors

It hasn’t made it down to my parking strip yet, maybe it likes the part shade of the upper garden better. In any case, don’t let its adorable little pink flowers (not visible in my photos), delicate foliage or funny, furry reddish stems fool you into thinking it’s a nice groundcover. Yank it out before it takes over the universe!


6 Responses to “Stinky Bob”

  1. Racquel Says:

    Stinky Bob is getting a bad rap. He has beautiful shaped foliage like a Fernleaf Bleedingheart & I love that the leaves change color in the fall.

  2. Huh! I just learned something – never knew what that plant was called. At least it’s relatively easy to yank out, unlike deeper-rooted plants. 🙂

    PS: I accidentally deleted your comment on my buddleia post and am trying to retrieve it. Please don’t take it personally! I’m still learning this WordPress thing.

  3. Megan Says:

    That looks familiar, like something that creeps over from the neighbors’ yard ever since they sprinkled a wildflower mix a few years ago. I’ll have to pay closer attention and see if I have a pest on my hands.

  4. Victoria Says:

    It’s very useful in one respect, however. If Herb Robert likes your garden, it’s a good indication that many of the more gorgeous hardy geraniums will grow well there too. (Though if you don’t like the smell, don’t try growing Geranium macrorrhizum, because it smells just the same!)

  5. Cynthia Says:

    Stinky Bob, what a funny name and not one you would soon forget! I have yet to have run into this one. Note I said yet. My garden births weeds just like it does rocks. The foliage is very pretty on it. I would be tempted to keep it but if I ever come across it I will heed your warning! 🙂

  6. greenwalks Says:

    Racquel –

    I agree that it’s a pretty plant, but I guess it can be really invasive and choke out natives when it gets into forests and other spaces like that.


    Andrea –

    Glad to provide some useful info. Yes, it’s an easy one to get rid of if you don’t have too many. No worries on the deleted posts!


    Megan –

    I see some in our neighbor’s yard too, not sure which way it went over the fence, from us or to. Yeah, keep an eye on that one, it can really seed itself in hidden spaces.


    Victoria –

    Thanks for the tip! Nice to know that I can plant a less invasive member of the geranium family and it will both enjoy and behave itself. 🙂


    Cynthia –

    It’s not the worst of my weeds by any means, but I’d recommend against keeping it around if it shows up, since it can move from your yard to other spaces and become invasive.

    – Karen

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