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Oxalis stricta L.

Common yellow woodsorrel, common yellow oxalis

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderGeranialesBalsams, mustards, geraniums, wood sorrels, nasturtiums, others
FamilyOxalidaceaeWood sorrels
GenusOxalisWood sorrels (Oxalis means “sour”)

About plant names...

Oxalis is widespread in North America, though it is not known whether it is native or introduced from Europe. It prefers open woodlands, meadows, lawns, gardens, dis­turbed areas, and sunny waste areas.

Plants: 3-8″ (7.6-20 cm) tall, rarely reaching 1′ (30 cm). Heavily branched, especially near the base. Stems are light green and smooth, or covered with short appressed hairs, lying flat against the stems. Younger plants may be hairier.

Leaves: Alternate, trifoliate, cloverlike, folding up like miniature parasols when there is little sun. Leaves appear atop upward-pointed petioles up to 2½″ (6.3 cm) in length. They are usually green, sometimes outlined in purplish, rarely dark reddish purple. They are usually hairless. Leaflets are obcordate (heart-shaped), with smooth edges. Individual leaflets are ¼-½″ (6.3-12 mm) in size.

Flowers: Yellow, in groups of 2-7 on umbels. Each flower is 5/16-¼″ (8.3-6.3 mm) in diameter, with 5 yellow petals, 5 light green sepals, 10 stamens, and a pistil. Flowers appear from late spring to mid-fall.

Fruits: Seed capsules occur in groups of 3-5. They look like little green bananas, bent slightly, ⅜-¾″ (9.5-19 mm) long, and five-sided. Ripening capsules split into five sections, exploding seeds up to several feet away. Seeds are just over 1/32″ (1 mm) long brown, oval, and flattened.

These are closely similar (see also this comparison):


Oxalis stricta (common yellow woodsorrel, common yellow oxalis)

5/21/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts · ≈ 2 × 3½′ (69 × 104 cm)

Oxalis stricta (common yellow woodsorrel, common yellow oxalis)

5/27/2010 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, Mass­a­chu­setts · ≈ 14 × 9″ (35 × 23 cm)

Oxalis corniculata
Common Name

creeping woodsorrel
Plant Low-growing, prostrate, up to 4″ (10 cm), and rather delicate. It spreads by producing creeping, horizontal stems (stolons) up to 12″ (30 cm) long.
Flowers Bright yellow, with five petals, in clusters of 2-7, ⅛-½″ (3.2-12 mm) around, appearing from June to September. Flower stalks are erect or ascending.
Leaves Trifoliate, with three rounded heart-shaped leaflets, like clover. They fold up like miniature parasols when there is little sun. Leaves are purple-green or dark purple, and somewhat hairy, especially along leaf margins. Leaves are ⅛-⅜″ (6-10 mm) × ⅛-⅞″ (4-25 mm). Leafs stalks are longer than in most plants, up to 2½″ (7 cm).
Fruit Narrow, cylindrical capsules, ⅛-1″ (6-28 mm) long. When it dries it “explodes,” spreading is 1/32″ (1 mm) seeds.
Range/ Zones

Habitats Waste places, lawns, and gardens.
Type Wild
Occurrence Common


Edibility: Leaves are edible as salad greens or cook as pot­herbs if combined with other milder greens. They contain oxalic acid which is poisonous unless eaten sparingly.

Online References:

Illinois Wildflowers

Minnesota Wildflowers

Fall Wildflowers of New England

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


Clemants, Steven; Gracie, Carol, Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 176

Ceratoxalis coloradensis (Rydb.) Lunell

Ceratoxalis cymosa (Small) Lunell

Oxalis bushii (Small) Small

Oxalis coloradensis Rydb.

Oxalis cymosa Small

Oxalis europaea Jord.

Oxalis europaea Jord. var. bushii (Small) Wiegand

Oxalis europaea Jord. var. rufa (Small) Young

Oxalis fontana Bunge

Oxalis fontana Bunge var. bushii (Small) H. Hara

Oxalis interior (Small) Fedde

Oxalis rufa Small

Oxalis stricta L. var. decumbens Bitter

Oxalis stricta L. var. piletocarpa Wiegand

Oxalis stricta L. var. rufa (Small) Farw.

Oxalis stricta L. var. villicaulis (Wiegand) Farw.

Xanthoxalis bushii Small

Xanthoxalis coloradensis (Rydb.) Rydb.

Xanthoxalis cymosa (Small) Small

Xanthoxalis dillenii (Jacq.) Holub var. piletocarpa (Wiegand) Holub

Xanthoxalis interior Small

Xanthoxalis rufa (Small) Small

Xanthoxalis stricta (L.) Small

Xanthoxalis stricta (L.) Small var. piletocarpa (Wiegand) Moldenke


Oxalis stricta description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 17 Aug 2021.

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