Geranium or Pelargonium?

Crane, Heron, and Stork. Three large aquatic birds with long legs, a feathery crest, and an impressive beak. The resemblance of the seed pods to the bird is what made the naturalists and biologists name the family Geraniaceae and divide them into three genera: Geraniums (geranós:  crane in Greek), Erodiums (erodiós:  heron in Greek) and Pelargoniums (pelargós: stork in Greek). These three species of fragrant flowering plants share many similarities and are not so easy to distinguish for the layperson.

Spiral seeds of Geranium looking like the crest of a crane.

There are approximately two hundred and fifty species of pelargoniums, and many of them originate from South Africa. These plants are evergreen, tolerating well heat and drought. Pelargoniums are prevalent plants in the garden and on balconies in temperate climates. So much that in many countries some associations of fans of pelargoniums and geraniums classify cultivars and create news ones by hybridization. The most popular varieties include the Pelargoniums Zonal (aka Pelargonium x hortorum Bailey) usually seen in gardens, and Ivy-leaves Pelargoniums favored on balconies for their long hanging stems. Even if these plants emit an odor, they are not cultivated for this property but merely for their visual beauty.

The Scented-Leaves Pelargoniums are cultivated for the fragrance of their leaves which cover a stunning spectrum of scents, varying from floral, fruity, nutty, woody and balsamy notes. Geraniol, an aroma-chemical named after the plant, is the chief component at the origin of the smell of geraniaceae.

The principal ingredient of geranium oil is called geraniol. It is an important perfumery ingredient and also a good insect repellent.

The essential oil of pelargonium is labeled more commonly as geranium essential oil and extracted from the stems and leaves of the plant before the flowers open. The plant is rich in odoriferous molecules such as Geraniol of course, but also Alpha Pinene, Myrcene, Limonene, Menthone, Linalool, Geranyl Acetate, Citronellol, and Geranyl Butyrate. The health benefits of this oil seem endless, and for this reason, it is one of the most commonly used in aromatherapy. It is proven to reduce inflammation and irritation, treat skin diseases, improve blood circulation, reduce blood pressure, diuretic and boosting kidneys’ function, alleviate menstrual and menopausal pain and complications and balance hormones. It is also well appreciated as a natural body deodorant. The geranium essential oil is mainly extracted from two species, the Pelargonium Graveolens (rose-scented) and Pelargonium x Asperum. These oils are often graded based on their origin. The best grades are the Bourbon (from Reunion Island originally and now also from China) and Egyptian. Worldwide production of geranium oil is estimated to be around 300 tons, which is an enormous quantity in comparison with many other essential oils. Most of it is used in perfumes directly or as a base oil to extract fragrant molecules. The best quality oil can be costly and sometimes falsified with synthetic compounds. Only buy your oils from a reliable source.

Look well at the grade and origin of your oils. Geranium Bourbon from Reunion Island is the best grade, but other grades can also present an interesting odor profile for your fragrance.

In perfumery, geranium essential oil is commonly used as a substitute for the very expensive rose oil or absolute. It is however also appreciated for its own aromatic spectrum which differs from the one of the rose. The absolute of geranium, extracted with a solvent, is preferred to the oil. It is an invaluable floral heart blender that adds some rich leafy-green aroma to the juice and increases its tenacity. I selected this week a few fragrances dedicated to geranium or displaying a bright note of this beautiful plant.

Géranium pour Monsieur from the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. The name of this fragrance shows loud and clear that geranium stands at its heart. The famous nose Dominique Ropion chose a Chinese Bourbon Graveolens. The opening of this perfume starts with a surprising fresh mint note. The geranium note comes then superbly well, accompanied by the common spice-trio of star anise, cinnamon, and cloves. The dry down is unfortunately too fast and ends up on a disappointing woody-resinous base with some hints of Ambroxan. Some say that the acquisition of EdPFM by Estee Lauder was detrimental to the quality of the juice, but it might rather be the fault of the new European laws restricting the use of some aroma-chemicals and essential oils. Try this perfume on your skin for a couple of hours, if possible, before to opt for your investment.

Diptyque launched Geranium Odorata in 2014. Diptyque describe their fragrance as one taking us into clusters of the crimson-coloured flowers whose springtime blossoming in gardens and on balconies announces the arrival of a joyful, sunny season. Geranium Bourbon and Rose Geranium are on the menu, even if this description is not precise enough to know the origin of the oils. Bergamot opens the balls, followed by the floral effects of geraniums, spiced by some red peppercorns. A classic base of cedar-vetiver-tonka is leaving us without any surprise after a couple of hours. Not a very outstanding fragrance but worth a try in a serious perfume shop or duty-free.

Aedes de Venustas started as a niche fragrance perfumery shop in New York in the late nineties before to introduce their own fragrance line in 2012. Interestingly, they continue to sell and distribute the best niche fragrances online in parallel of their own. I have been deeply impressed by the quality and originality of their collection and always look for a chance to find them in department stores. Their latest creation this year is called Pelargonium and obviously has its place in this post today. I had the opportunity to try it in Tokyo and was seduced, probably because the fragrance includes some of my favorite notes such as guaiac wood, carrot seed, and clary sage. A deep oakmoss and vetiver base also ensures a smooth dry down. Elemi and bergamot are on the top of the intense geranium heart. Another treasure for you to test as soon as possible!

In Switzerland, farmers and enthusiasts love to decorate their “chalet” in summer. The insect repellent property of geraniums is also one of the reasons, besides the beauty of the flowers.

Geranium is the best flower to illustrate summer in Switzerland, as it is the season they bloom and ornate the windows of our mountain houses. Ah, my friends, what a beautiful time in the Alps!

I wish you a lovely and fragrant week.

Laurent

 

 

 

 

 

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