Oxalis acetosella

Lindsay B. wrote today’s entry:

Thank you to marcella2@Flickr for submitting today’s photo (original image | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool)!

Oxalis acetosella is a cleistogamous perennial herb common throughout most of Europe and parts of Asia. Oxalis acetosella, commonly known as wood sorrel, grows in clonal stands typical of self-pollinating plants. The leaves of wood sorrel are clover-like, and for that reason it is sometimes referred to as a shamrock (though shamrocks also often refer to true clovers, Trifolium spp.) and given as a gift on St. Patrick’s Day.

Wood sorrel, like spinach and broccoli, contains oxalic acid, a common ingredient in cleaning products and rustproofing treatments. When ingested, oxalic acid interferes with food digestion and the absorption of some trace minerals–part of what makes it such an effective cleaning agent. The Latin “oxalis” is derived from the Greek “oxus”, or sour, which is indicative of its taste. However, research has indicated that the level of oxalic acid present in wood sorrel (as well as spinach and broccoli) is not harmful to humans in small amounts.

Oxalis acetosella

11 responses to “Oxalis acetosella”

  1. Irma in Sweden

    This plant is such a big part of my childhood. In the first days of spring these small flowers come out even in the dark spruce woods. And then taking some leaves and feel the clean acid taste was such a treat

  2. tovje

    again a flowerpick?? I am glad, surprised and proud!

  3. tovje

    sorry, my nickname for this site is Marcella2!!!

  4. Vicki

    My new word for the day is “cleistogamous”!!!!!! What fun!!!

  5. Connie

    My mom called it “sour cissel” – I don’t know why. Maybe because her grandmother, who came from Norway did. But that sounds like an English term… Anyway, Mom taught me to nibble the leaves. My college roommate taught me to nibble the little green fruits, which her family called “doll pickles”.

  6. Doug

    I’m more familiar with O. stricta, but it sounds like they are very similar with the exception of flower color…
    As a kid in New York, like Connie, we used to chew on the sour fruits…

  7. Douglas Findley

    I used to love eating these as a kid hiking. Later in life I developed kidney stones. Probably not the only cause but most kidney stones are Calcium Oxalate, so make sure you drink lots of water with it. I heard milk products help nutralize it.

  8. Cambree

    These are neat. I remember the yellow wood sorrel as a kid. They burst out every spring. Us kids we would pluck the flowers and nibble on the sour stalks. Just like sour candies but more natural and free!

  9. Eric Simpson

    Here in SoCal we have O. pes-caprae, an invasive non-native that is highly tolerated, as it is a rather cheerful looking plant, with its clusters of bright yellow flowers held high on long, succulent peduncles. As kids, we called it “sourgrass” and chewed on the peduncles. My cats love it too, preferentially eating it rather than grass, at least for the six months or so that it’s around. Since it produces no fruit in California, I’ve long been stumped on how new populations get started.
    And, of course, I’m a big fan of Redwood sorrel (O. oregana), from my time in NorCal.

  10. elizabeth a airhart

    my mother grow an oxlis as a a house plant
    it was pink and ever so pretty same tribe?
    lovely posting thank you

  11. Pete

    We called this one Sour Sally in Wales where I grew up.We used it in salads.No kidney stones yet!

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