Geranium handlerii

This is a flower nobody will ever see, Handler’s geranium or G. handlerii.

Geraniums have 5 petals, always 5, associated with either 5 pistils or 10 stamen.

Count the petals, pistils and stamen in this pair. There are 6, 6 and 12, i.e. one supernumerary unit has been added. I named this variant after myself.

Photo was captured July 11, 2014 along the Maxwell Falls trail in Evergreen, CO, walking distance from where we then lived. I was hurried by my wife with two more, and younger, Handler generations impatiently marching on. Only back on the computer screen in Lr did I discover the find.

I returned many times that summer. A few more examples existed, clustered within a 50 ft radius. But in 2015 and subsequent years not a single 6 petal example appeared. It is now extinct, likely sterile.

Technical Details

Composite: No
Handheld with a 2012 Sony Nex-7 and a 1971 Micro Nikkor 55 f3.5 on a Vello adapter, probably at f/8 or f/11, 1/60" ISO 160. My hurried original capture was not perfectly focused, but for this we now have Topaz AI Sharpen, hence my reprocessing.

What a sad tale. I’ve often said that evolution came up with humans to be an extinction trigger. We are certainly good at it.

Failed to reproduce due to genetic mutations, not human interference, though I did worry people would pick them, as some, often children, do while walking. This was the only example where I could get both male and female flowers in same view, lucky!

P.S. Maybe there once was a 4 leaf clover.

Just saw you’re using legacy glass. Nice. I often use an 80s vintage Olympus macro. It’s a gem.

Kristin, when I switched to Sony 10 years ago there was no native mount macro. First I bought this pristine used Micro Nikkor 3.5/55, eBay $114. I had an attachment to that lens as my father had loved his, a 1969 sample. But the coatings on mine conferred a blue cast, enough to turn a geranium such as these into a violet or blue flower. This was correctable in Lr. Sometimes I took home a stray flower petal to help set a custom WB.

A few years later I bought a pristine Minolta Maxxum 2.8/100 macro, eBay $375. (That lens was later marketed as a Sony A mount, after Sony bought out Minolta.) Seller was right near us in Colorado so I picked it up in person! It was a very capable lens and functioned reasonably well in auto focus with the Sony adapter, but manual focus was stiff and too fast. I sold it recently for what I’d paid, roughly. It’s long telescoping barrel was a liability to drag in dirt.

I am now using a Laowa close focus 15mm Zero-D, a Zeiss Batis f2 40mm CF, a Voigtlander f2 65mm macro, and the marvelous Sony 2.8/90 macro with its internal focusing. I still have the Micro Nikkor, but it’s on loan to a neighbor. I think the Micro Nikkor is so optimized for close focus that it may not be so sharp at infinity, but not sure. Love it’s miniscule weight.

Using manual focus lenses on the Sony mirrorless cameras is the most satisfying focusing process I’ve ever encountered, going back to the Leica III-f rangefinders I used in the '50s and '60s.


1 Like

Thanks for sharing your photo and expertise Richard, I enjoyed both very much . . and as an ‘older dog’ I learned something new today!

Dan, glad you enjoyed that. Exciting to make discoveries. Unexplained is why any given flower species has a fixed # of petals. Botanists told me such mutations, adding petals, are known to occur. Why do only 5 petal geraniums survive? What survival advantage is there to 5 rather than more, and rather than less? Why are there no four leaf clovers?

Richard, Out of curiosity, what’s the native Geranium in your region. However, you note that G. handlerii is probably sterile; I wonder if it had the root clumps common to G maculatum L. and could be divided. It may be an escaped cultivated variety. Interesting plant.

Paul, thanks. I’ll search that and get back to you. Thanks for the info.

The native geranium there is just like this in size and color, but 5 petals, 5 pistils and 10 stamen.

Richard, you have me intrigued with G. handlerii. I’ve been running through the taxonomic keys for Geranium in North America without any resolution.

This may be sport, a part of a plant that shows morphological differences from the rest of the plant. Sports may have different leaves, flower colors, flower arrangements, or fruits.

The photograph above is Trillium erectum L. (red trillium). Normally, Trillium has three leaves, three sepals and petals and pistils, and 6 stamens. The left flower in the photo has five leaves, sepals, petals, eight pistils, and ten stamens. The right flower is in fours. I saw the plant once in the 1970s and never again. The spot was marked, well known, and I checked it for years. Note that the stem of the plant is a fusion between two plants. I suspect that the fusion caused a unique genetic arrangement realized in the rest of the plant. Thus a sport.

In this case, it was impossible to grow new plants by cuttings or other asexual means. However, asexual reproduction is possible; some sports can be reproduced and possibly end up as commonly cultivated plants. The “Ruby Red” grapefruit, discovered in 1929, is a sport. All new trees are grown from cuttings graphed onto hardier trees.

That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know.

That does add to the story. Plausible that this trillium was a fusion of two plants, or an incomplete separation of one at a point of division.

My 6 petal geranium was exactly like the normal 5 leaf ones in the immediate area and in the region in general, same size, same leaves. Normal 5 petal geraniums still out numbered these mutants which appeared among them. The mutants were far enough separated to be independent plants and were on both sides of the well worn trail.

Somehow the mutation was able to affect seeds which spread radially and locally, but the seedlings grew up to be sterile. Wild true geraniums are perennials, yet these mutants did not survive their first winter.

Botanist at the Denver Botanical Gardens simply said these mutations happen. I was stunned by their lack of interest. Even the observation that the supernumerary structure was petal + pistil or 2 stamen, as a unit, is fascinating.