The Double Life of Oxalis stricta

The pretty and petite Oxalis stricta, or yellow woodsorrel, leads something of a double life. It is a boon to the herb garden, but the bane of the flower border.

I'll explain.

<i>Oxalis stricta</i> growing wild.

The bright green, 3 segmented leaves (each the shape of a heart), are not only edible but tasty. They have a sour lemon flavor that often causes children to chew them raw as a thirst quencher. Adults sometimes add the leaves, cheerful yellow flowers, and seed pods to salads.

The plant contains copious amounts of vitamin C.

The leaves can be simmered and the resulting tea sweetened and chilled to make an herbal "lemonade". Drunk hot, it is used to treat fevers and nausea.

The fresh juice has been pressed from the leaves and used as a vinegar substitute. You can make a natural orange dye by boiling the whole plant, roots and all.

Now that I've told you the good news about Oxalis stricta let me share its dark side.

It has to do with those cute little banana shaped seed pods that people like to put on their salads. The ones that don't end up on your plate will burst open when ripe, chucking seeds in every direction--much like an impatiens does.

Nearly every seed will sprout (or so it will seem to you if this is happening in your flower border) spreading little yellow woodsorrel plants throughout the bed. This is why, despite its usefulness, some gardeners hate Oxalis stricta.

This product will kill weedy Oxalis, clover and chickweed.

Like the look of this dainty ground cover but don't want to risk spending the rest of your days battling a noxious weed?

Don't despair.

Oxalis oregana

Oxalis Oregana (Redwood Sorrel) Along Limekiln Creek
Oxalis Oregana (Redwood Sorrel) Along Limekiln Creek

Photographic Print
Reid, Rich
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Let me introduce you to redwood sorrel. This is yellow woodsorrel's better behaved country cousin.

Redwood sorrel occurs naturally in the redwood and Douglas fir forests of California, Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.

The 4-8 inch high plants feature green leaves divided into 3 heart shaped segments. Each heart has a white mark in its center.

It is deciduous and a very prolific producer of lilac-tinted white flowers spring through autumn.

It spreads quickly but is shallow rooted and not invasive.

You can easily pull it out if you should ever decide to.

It can be used to suppress weeds and fill in around perennials.Oxalis oregana requires shade and moist soil. It does not perform in hot summer areas. Too much sun will burn the leaves.

Now you know the facts and can pick your poison--or medicine, as the case may be.

Related Pages:

Growing Annual Herbs for Cooking and Healing

Oxalis triangularis 'Purple Shamrock'

Easy Care Aloe Vera

The Apothecary Rose, a Pharmacy in a Flower

Go from Oxalis Stricta to Plant Guides Home Page


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