Oxalis enneaphylla, the scurvy-grass sorrel, is a late spring- and summer-flowering, rhizomatous, alpine perennial herbaceous plant native to the grasslands of Patagonia and the Falkland Islands. It is a small plant that grows to 7 cm (2.8 in) high and 10 cm (3.9 in) across, with slightly fleshy, hairy, blue-grey leaves, which are edible but have a sharp taste due to their high oxalic acid content. The name enneaphylla comes from the Greek εννεα (ennea), "nine" and φυλλον (phyllon), "leaf".
The plant gets its common name from the fact that, like the unrelated scurvy-grass, its leaves are rich in vitamin C. Sailors travelling around Cape Horn would consume the leaves to avoid scurvy. This is illustrated by this extract from the Journal of Syms Covington, who sailed aboard HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin. Here he describes the Falkland Islands, and refers to Oxalis enneaphylla as "wild thyme":
While laying here we found it very squally, and at times very cold. The island is in general mountainous. Not a single tree to be seen but there are low brushes with red berries which are very good eating. Here are bullocks horses and pigs that run wild, rabbits, wild geese and ducks and most excellent snipe shooting on the marshy ground and long grass, of which the island in general has very little else. Likewise there is the tea plant, which bears very sweet berry, and wild thyme which we used as tea, and is very good and much more plentiful than the former.
This plant is cultivated in temperate regions, and is suitable for rockeries or alpine gardens. The species and the hybrid cultivar 'Ione Hecker' have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
- RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964.
- Syms Covington, The Journal of Syms Covington (Chapter 4) Online
- "RHS Plant Selector - Oxalis_enneaphylla". Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Oxalis_enneaphylla 'Ione Hecker'". Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Sheader, Martin & Sheader, Anna-Liisa (2015). "Patagonian alpines". The Plantsman (New Series) 14 (1): 16–21.