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Natural Perspective

The Plant Kingdom: Oxalis Family (Oxalidaceae)

(Last modified: 4 May 2015)
[photo redwood sorrel]

The Oxalis Family is familiar to California hikers and gardeners alike: native Redwood Sorrel plants carpet the floors of Redwood forests while world-travelling Yellow Oxalis is more at home in our cultivated lawns and gardens, much to the chagrin of many gardeners.

The novice naturalist may easily confuse Oxalis with Clover. The showy flowers and distinctive, acid taste of Oxalis, however easily distinguishes the two families.

[photo redwood sorrel flower] Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana, above and left), with its violet-tinged flowers nestled among clover-like leaves, provides welcome color to the oft-barren ground of California's dense Redwood forests.

California Indians (and modern day hikers) enjoyed the tangy taste of these plants -- although too much of a good thing, in this case, is indeed bad -- the tangy taste is the product of oxalic acid which is known to interfere with proper digestion.

[photo yellow oxalis] [photo yellow oxalis up close] Yellow Oxalis (Oxalis incarnata, left & right) is an African native which has taken root all across America. These hardy plants are quite difficult to get rid of once they have taken root. For some gardeners, however, this is one case where the adage "If you can't beat 'em join 'em" really does have a happy ending.

The showy flowers unfurl every morning to reveal their bright yellow trumpets and then wrap themselves back into a closed tube towards evening.
Phylum: Angiospermophyta (flowering plants)
Class: Dicotyledoneae (starting with two seed-leaves)
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Geraniales
Family: Oxalidaceae (Oxalis family)
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This site produced and maintained by Ari Kornfeld
Copyright © 1996-2015 All rights reserved.

Collaboration and inspiration thanks to Susan Kornfeld
Early PhotoCD scans by Alpha CD Imaging, Menlo Park, CA
Special thanks to Claire Doyle Ragin for scanning some early photos
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