Oxalis violacea

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Oxalis violacea
Violet Wood-Sorrel - Oxalis violacea.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Oxalidales
Family: Oxalidaceae
Genus: Oxalis
O. violacea
Binomial name
Oxalis violacea
  • Ionoxalis violacea (L.) Small
  • Oxalis violacea L. var. trichophora Fassett
  • Sassia violacea (L.) Holub

Oxalis violacea, the violet wood-sorrel, is a perennial plant and herb in the Oxalidaceae family.[1] Oxalis species are also known as sour grass, sour trefoil, and shamrock.


It is native plant in much of the United States, from the Rocky Mountains east to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico coasts, and through Eastern Canada. It has a tendency to cluster in open places in damp woods and on stream banks, and in moist prairies.[1]

The plant is listed as a threatened or endangered species in five eastern U.S. states.[2]


Oxalis violacea emerges in early spring from an underground bulb and produces leaf stems 7–13 cm (2 34–5 in) tall and flower clusters on stems 9–23 cm (3 12–9 in) tall.[3] The three-part leaves have heart-shaped leaflets. It is similar in appearance to small clovers such as the shamrock.

The plant bears lavender to white flowers with white to pale green centers above the foliage, during April or May, rarely to July, and, with rain, sometimes produces additional flowers without leaves from August to October.[3]



Oxalis violacea was used as a medicinal plant by Native Americans, including the Cherokee and Pawnee peoples.[4]


All parts of the plant are edible; flowers, leaves, stems, and bulb. Oxalis is from the Greek word meaning sour, and this plant has a sour juice. It is used in salads. Moderate use of plant is advisable, as it should not be eaten in large quantities due to a high concentration of oxalic acid, ("salt of lemons") which can be poisonous.[5]

It was a traditional food source of the Native American Apache, Cherokee, Omaha, Pawnee, and Ponca peoples.[4]


Oxalis violacea is cultivated as an ornamental plant, for use as a flowering groundcover or perennial plant in traditional and native plant gardens, and for natural landscaping projects.[6] It spreads rapidly by runners and bulbs.[7] In gardens the plant prefers partial shade and moisture.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Oxalis violacea". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Oxalis violacea". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA.
  3. ^ a b Nesom, Guy L. (2016). "Oxalis violacea". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee. Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). 12. New York and Oxford – via eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  4. ^ a b "Oxalis violacea". Native American Ethnobotany. University of Michigan - Dearborn.
  5. ^ Berglund, Berndt; Bolsby, Clare E. (1971). The Edible Wild: A complete cookbook and guide to edible wild plants in Canada and North America. Burns & MacEachern Limited—Pagurian Press Limited.
  6. ^ "Oxalis violacea". Plant Finder. Missouri Botanical Garden, Kemper Center for Home Gardening.
  7. ^ a b "Oxalis violacea". Native Plant Database. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas at Austin.

External links[edit]

  • Oxalis violacea in the CalPhotos Photo Database, University of California, Berkeley