Erodium moschatum

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaGeraniaceaeErodiumErodium moschatum


An annual of barish places near the sea, in disturbed sand dunes, on roadsides, wall-tops, field margins and waste ground. In the Isles of Scilly it is a frequent bulb-field weed. It is recorded inland as a casual, sometimes introduced with wool shoddy. Lowland.



World Distribution

As an archaeophyte E. moschatum has a Mediterranean-Atlantic distribution; it is widely naturalised outside this range.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 6

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.8

Annual Precipitation (mm): 880

Life form information

Height (cm): 40

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 338

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 80

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 14

Atlas Change Index: 0.47

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Erodium moschatum (L.) L'Her.

Musk stork's-bill

Status: scarce



This species only occasionally occurs in semi-natural habitats in Britain. In the Mendips it grows with other annuals on shallow soils over Carboniferous limestone, and elsewhere in south-west England it can be found in open, drought-prone coastal grassland on thin, often sandy soils and rarely, on coastal rock outcrops. Most of the persistent populations, however, grow in ruderal habitats near the sea, and are typically found on roadside banks and verges, path sides, the sides and tops of Cornish `hedges', trampled turf and waste ground. Medicago arabica, another coastal ruderal, is a frequent associate, as is E. cicutarium where the soil is sandy. In the Isles of Scilly, E. moschatum is a weed of bulb and potato fields, growing with species such as Ranunculus muricatus and R. parviflorus. It is often found as a casual inland, presumably originating from foreign seed, and it was regularly introduced with wool shoddy. It is confined to the lowlands. 

Seeds of E. moschatum germinate in autumn, and in a mild season plants begin to flower in February. If conditions are favourable they continue flowering until October, the plants becoming larger and coarser as the year advances. Although basically an annual, autumn-flowering plants sometimes persist through the winter to flower again the following spring. Viable fruit is produced by almost all flowers. Populations tend to be small but many of them are surprisingly persistent.

The ruderal habitat of E. moschatum makes it difficult to assess changes in its distribution or abundance, but there is no evidence of marked changes in either. Populations in some semi-natural grasslands may be at risk from scrub encroachment following the cessation of grazing.

E. moschatum is widespread in southern and western Europe, and occurs throughout the Mediterranean region. It is also known as an alien in South Africa, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.

Although this plant is described as native (Clapham, Tutin and Warburg 1962; Kent 1992; Stace 1991), it may be a long-established alien. It was formerly cultivated as a pot herb for ‘the sweete smell that the whole plant is possessed with’ (Gerardo 1597), although the scent now seems barely detectable. Populations in semi-natural habitats may have originated from cultivated plants.



C.D. Preston

PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (94d)
de Bolòs O, Vigo J
1990.  Flora dels Països Catalans, II. Crucíferes-Amarantàcies.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.