• Key characteristics
  • Biology
  • Impacts
  • Control
  • Further information

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

Similar species

  • 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.


  • Both storksbill (Erodium cicutarium) and musky storksbill (Erodium moschatum) originated in Eurasia and North Africa
  • Storksbill is a weed of arable land, poor pasture, dry tussock and grassland, and is locally common in drier coastal and lowland areas of both the North and South Islands and the Chathams
  • Musky storksbill inhabits wetter areas and is found in pastures, waste areas and roadsides, mostly in the upper North Island but can be found as far south as Canterbury and the West Coast.

Life cycle

  • Both species are autumn germinating plants, flowering between September and May
  • They behave as annuals, flowering and setting seed over an extended period during summer and autumn and within a year of germinating
  • Musky storksbill, in particular, can have long, branched flower stems leading to dense exclusive patches of the weed.


There are few benefits to these two weeds:

  • Young leaves have been eaten raw in salads, like parsley, or used like spinach.

Impact on pasture

  • Storksbill usually only invades run-out and poor, dry pastures and is seldom a problem
  • Musky storksbill, being a more robust plant that grows well in higher rainfall areas, is more competitive to pasture. It can form dense mats which stock avoid and can clog up hay-making machinery. It can be a serious weed in establishing pastures and forage crops.

Impact on stock

  • After being used to propel the seed away from the parent plant, the long tail-like appendage on the seed winds up like a corkscrew and periodic wetting (dew) and drying (sunshine) can unwind and wind this spring forcing the seed into the ground. Unfortunately the seed has a very sharp point and this same motion can force the seed through the skin or into the eyes and mouths of animals. Woolly sheep are particularly prone to this.

Impact on crops and in gardens

  • Both species can take up space and deprive desirable plants of water and nutrients, especially open crops such as brassicas (e.g. turnips and kale) and chicory.

Grazing management

  • Being rosette plants, storksbills are not good candidates for managing through grazing. However, maintaining a good strong, uniform pasture will reduce their establishment.

Chemical control

  • Storksbills are tolerant to many herbicides and the ability to control large plants in pasture, without also causing severe damage to clovers, is very difficult
  • Storksbills are more susceptible as small seedlings where they can be controlled with bentazone and proprietary mixes of bentazone + flumetsulam and bentazone + MCPB.

  • Popay I, Champion P, James T 2010. An illustrated guide to common weeds of New Zealand. New Zealand Plant Protection Society, Christchurch, New Zealand. 416 p.