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Violet Wood Sorrel - Oxalis violacea

Oxalis violacea, the Violet Woodsorrel or Violet Wood Sorrel, is a perennial plant native to the United States and Canada. Similar in appearance to small clovers such as the shamrock, the plant bears violet colored flowers among three-parted leaves having heart-shaped leaflets. It is sometimes otherwise known as sour grass, sour trefoil, and shamrock.

The individual trifoliate leaflets are about 1 inch across and open up during the day (as do the flowers, both of which close up if it is not a sunny day). The leaves have smooth margins and may turn purplish in response to cold weather or strong sunlight but otherwise tend to be grayish-green. Both the upper and lower leaflet surfaces are hairless.

Among these leaves, floppy umbels of flowers develop on peduncles up to 6 inches long. The peduncles are similar in appearance to the petioles. Each umbel has 2-5 flowers on slender pedicels up to 1 inch long; usually only 1-2 flowers per umbel are in bloom at the same time. The flowers are bell-shaped (campanulate) and about 1/3 inch (8 mm.) across. Each flower has 5 lavender or pale purple petals, 5 light green sepals, 5 inserted stamens with yellow anthers, and an ovary with an inserted style. Near the throat of the flower, the petals become greenish white with converging fine veins; they are oblanceolate in shape, often becoming slightly recurved toward their tips. The sepals are shorter than the petals; they are lanceolate in shape and hairless with purplish tips. The blooming period occurs from mid-spring to early summer, lasting about 1-2 months. On rare occasions, Violet Wood Sorrel may bloom again during the fall. There is no floral scent. Eventually, slender pointed seed capsules develop that split into 5 sections, sometimes ejecting the light brown seeds several inches. The root system consists of small bulblets with fibrous roots; these bulblets can multiply by forming clonal offsets.

Violet Wood Sorrel emerges in early spring from an underground bulb, and grows to an average height of approximately 7 inches.

All parts of the plant are edible; flowers, leaves, stems and bulb, and has a sour juice. It has a tendency to cluster in shady places in damp woods. This plant should not be eaten in large quantities at one time because of its high concentration of salt of lemons or oxalic acid, which is poisonous. Moderate use should prove no harm.


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Taken on April 2, 2012