Oxalis violacea L.

Violet Wood Sorrel

Oxalis violacea plant

Family - Oxalidaceae

Stems - Aerial stems absent. Plants from small underground bulbs.


Leaves - Basal, long-petiolate. Petioles glabrous to densely pubescent, with stipules near the base as inconspicuous, translucent wings of tissue. Leaves palmately trifoliate. Leaflets to 20 mm long, broadly obcordate, apical notched to 1/3 of the total length, the upper surface glabrous, green and often reddish- to purplish markings, the undersurface glabrous or sparsely pubescent, green but usually mottled to strongly tinged with purplish red, the leaflet base sometimes with scattered, stiff, unicellular, nonglandular hairs.


Oxalis_violacea_stemsLeaf petioles

Inflorescence - Umbellate clusters arising directly from bulb.


Flowers - Sepals 4-6 mm long, oblong-lanceolate, usually with 2 bright orange thickenings (concentrations of oxalate crystals) at the tip. Petals 9-20 mm long, pink, violet, or purple, rarely white. Corollas often with greenish throats.



Fruits - Fruits 4-6 mm long, oblong-ellipsoid, glabrous. Seeds 1.0-1.5 mm long, brown, the surface somewhat wrinkled or with a faint network of ridges.


Flowering - March - May, again in September - November.

Habitat - Forest openings, savannas, glades, prairies, pastures.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Other info. - This attractive species can be found throughout most of Missouri. The plant is easy to identify because of its bulb-like stem, trifoliolate leaves (often with purple markings), and its pink flowers. It is unusual in having two distinct bloom periods, in spring and fall.

The genus name Oxalis derives from the Greek "ox (a)" meaning "acid", referring to the sharp taste of the calcium oxalate crystals of the plant. "oxal (is)" is the ancient Greek name for the sorrels. The species epithet violacea derives from the Latin "viola(ce)" meaning "violet, violet-colored" referring to the flowers.

Many people eat Oxalis. This should always be done in moderation, since the plant contains oxalic acid, which is secreted as calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals can give the plant a glaucous appearance. The sharp, jagged crystals botch your kidneys if oxalates are ingested in large quantity. Averrhoa carambola L. or "Star Fruit" is a member of the Oxalidaceae, and should also be eaten in moderation.

Photographs taken at Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 4-22-2007, at Engelmann Woods Natural Area, Franklin County, MO, 4-12-2010 and 4-19-2014, and at Danville Conservation Area, Montgomery County, MO, 5-15-2018 (SRTurner).