To lose your heart to pelargoniums, you must first know they’re not geraniums (the two are often confused). Nor are all of them splashy, red hybrids—those common pelargoniums can be found in countless backyards. No, the path to obsession is to know that some examples of this plant—like the ones on these pages—are quite rare and mysterious. With thick, rough roots and knobby stems that sprout fine leaves and small blooms worth studying up close, some pelargoniums can look like Japanese bonsais or desert shrubs. Mostly native to South Africa, “pellies” are exquisitely attuned to the demands of their former home.
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Because of roaming goats, this species is endangered on its native St. Helena, an island off the coast of West Africa. Resembling a Lilliputian tree with heart-shape leaves, it blooms white from spring into summer and appreciates a bit of summer shade.