These two species, Erodium cicutarium and Erodium moschatum, are similar in appearance and can easily be confused.
- Both are annual members of the geranium family (Geraniaceae)
- Both are rosette type plants with small, serrated, oval leaflets arranged in pairs along the stem (pinnate)
- Soon after flowering the distinctive seed head appears, which resembles the long, pointed beak of a stork for which the plant is named
- The seed has a very long appendage, essentially an uncoiled spring, which in a hot sunny day can flick the seed more than a metre away from the parent plant
- Storksbills have very distinctive cotyledons, shaped like a guitar with one side offset.
Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium) is usually the smaller of the two species and is also more widespread. It is a weed of arable land, poor pasture, dry tussock and grassland, and is found in drier coastal and lowland areas of both the North and South Islands and the Chathams.
- Often tinged red due to nutrient or moisture stress
- Leaves are up to 15 cm long and consist of up to eight pairs of oval leaflets with blunt teeth to highly dissected edges
- Flowers are pinkish-purple, with three dark purple veins and about 12-14 mm diameter with five distinct petals
- Flowers are clustered in five-twelve-flowered umbels and appear from September to May.
Musky storksbill (Erodium moschatum) grows in wetter, more fertile locations especially dairy pastures.
- Leaves may be twice as long (up to 30 cm) and up to eight leaflet pairs which are generally less dissected
- The crushed leaves have a faint, musky odour
- Wild carrot (Daucus carota) could be confused with storksbill but the leaves of wild carrot are more feathery and the flowers white
- Parsley dropwort (Oenanthe pimpinelloides) has shiny leaves and only grows in the north of the North Island. It also has white flowers.