Here’s a weed-of-the-week, one you might know – woodsorrel or sour-grass; “Oxalis stricta L.” Its a clover-like perennial (sometimes annual in cool areas) which can grow to a diminutive 3cm but as high as 50cm! Stems are hairy, but only if you look closely.
The flowers are yellow around 7-11mm wide and have 5 sepals and 5 yellow petals. The seeds are in pod-ish ridged erect, hairy, capsules- though they can reproduce by rhizomes. They’re pretty fun seeds to play with and great at spreading seeds- since they EXPLODE a pretty good distance from their capsules if they’re ripe. I wish my grass seeds did that. Anyways…
You’ll find these guys as a common lawn weed and container garden weed. They love a good moist rich soil (who doesn’t!) but they’ll also survive in disturbed areas, roadsides, and woodland edges.
Did you know that the genus name “Oxalis” literally means “sour”; and you can eat it?! Many domesticated veggies have lots of oxalic acid, such as spinach and broccoli. However, it can be toxic since high oxalic acid content can inhibit calcium absorption; you know if you shouldn’t eat it. Though – I realize you’d have to eat it in a huge quantity – eat in moderation! It’s also high in vitamin C, and used to be used to treat scurvy. It’s quite tasty mixed in with salad mix, giving it a lemony zing. You can eat the flowers and stems too; though I’d pick out the older tougher stems. Some types of oxalis grow a thick tuber, purportedly popular in New Zealand. Apparently there is even a sweet-tea type of drink! I think it’d be nice stuffing a whole trout with some thyme and black pepper on a grill. Mmmm.
Try a nibble! Be careful though where you pick though- here’s what I learned working in the life sciences world – if it can kill the bugs and weeds, it can probably kill you too. (Beware of pesticides, herbicides, and traffic waste!) Know where you’re picking, and what’s been there.
You can even use it for an orange dye!
Now, there is a similar species to yellow woodsorrel called “creeping woodsorrel”, (Oxalis corniculata L.) which is distinguished by tending to be a little closer to the ground, has more purplish leaves (though this can vary) BUT it lacks the underground rhizomes – rather it spreads by aboveground stolons. Apparently this one is more common in greenhouses. Still edible, still safe! NOT TOXIC! Hooray!
I suppose if you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em! Have I convinced you yet?