The family Geraniaceae contains three genera: Geranium, Erodium, and Pelargonium. The names, derived from the three Greek words meaning crane, heron, and stork, refer to the resemblance of the seed case to the slender bills of these three birds. Pelargonium species originate in South Africa and different species are found in distinct habitats. The Pelargonium species related to the Geranium oil-producing cultivars are mainly located in the Cape area.
Pelargonium plants are comprised of a myriad of hybrids and cultivars. They are bushy perennial shrubs possessing hairy, jagged leaves and clusters of small, pink striped flowers. The plant grows best in a warm temperate climate with plenty of sunshine for maximum oil development. It is sensitive to cold weather and frost averse. Glands located widely over the surface of the leaves and the green parts of the plant produce an aromatic volatile oil. Variations in the aromatic compounds of different cultivars results in diverse aromatic profiles for the different types of geranium essential oils available, that is, rose geranium, geranium or rose geranium bourbon. This is a key component of the surprise and delight inherent in plant-based aromas.