Pacific Grove, California, the town that is West of Monterey, is teeming with Wildly Successful Plants, including many kinds of pelargoniums (geraniums)--ivy, regal, scented, etc--that I wrote about in my book by that name. But one that I saw stopped me in my tracks, because the leaves looked more like begonia leaves than pelargonium leaves. Here is a photo. The plant was about 2 feet tall, and the leaves to 4 or 5 inches long. Notice the narrow lower petals, almost threadlike.
I looked at books with photos of pelargoniums, and finally saw one that looked a lot like it. It is Pelargonium cordifolium, a species that is native in the southern and eastern part of the Cape region of South Africa. The leaves are about the same, though the flowers seem a bit pinker. They do have the narrow lower petals though. The photo is in Volume I of the Random House Book of Indoor and Greenhouse Plants by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix. The Phillips and Rix book says the leaves have an apple scent (I wish I had sniffed it) and that it is easy to grow in sandy soil.
Most of the pelargoniums in our gardens are hybrids among two or more species of South African plants. But once in a while, we see a pure species, or a plant that is alost a pure species, and this seems to be such a case.
Is it a new or an old planting? Don't know. Many of the houses in the neighborhood were built over a century ago, and bear placques to mark the date and the original resident, and many of the plants in gardens are cleary heirlooms. I don't know the date this particular pelargonium species was imported and sold here, but I sure do like it!