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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Creeping Wood Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) - The Sleeping Beauty Weed in My Garden

Today's post is about an Oxalis (Wood Sorrel) which has yellow flowers and green leaves.  Please don't be fooled by the tiny, pretty flowers that look so delicate, demure and innocent. Actually it is a weed in my garden!

In my previous post, the plant is the Purple Shamrock; Oxalis regnelli 'Atropurpurea' aka Oxalis triangularis which has lovely pale lilac flowers and maroon-purple butterfly shaped leaves.

Purple Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis) is grown as an ornamental plant in my garden while Wood Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) is the weed.

Scientific name: Oxalis corniculata*
Synonyms: Xanthoxalis corniculata, Acetosella corniculata

Common names: Creeping Wood Sorrel, Procumbrent Yellow Sorrel, Sleeping Beauty, Weedy Oxalis

Chinese name: :酢浆草 (ju jiang cao)
Malay name: Belimbing Pasir (Sand Carambola)
Family: Oxalidaceae
Category: Annual / short-lived perennial 
Origin: Unknown **

*Source of plant ID: 1001 Garden Plants in Singapore.

**According to the book, "Upland Rice Weeds of South and Southeast Asia" by Marita Ignacio Galinato, Keith Moody, Colin M. Piggin, International Rice Research Institute, Philippines Edi. 1999 the plant is "believed to have originated in tropical Asia, Malaysia, Australasia or the Western Pacific and probably indigenous to the Americas" (Page 60).

Oxalis corniculata resembles O. stricta, the Common Yellow Woodsorrel

The leaves are trifoliate. Each leaf is made up of 3 leaflets which are rounded and clover or inverted heart shaped. They are actually quite miniature in size, i.e. about 4-15mm long and 8-32mm wide. In sunny locations, the leaves develop some purple colouration. The plant is low growing and tends to creep on the ground. The hairy stems are usually less than 50 cm long. Roots formed at the nodes where they touch the ground.

Creeping Wood Sorrel can be found in tropical as well as temperate climates.

“Creeping Wood Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) - The Sleeping Beauty Weed in My Garden”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on May 9th, 2010. 

Oxalis corniculata - Creeping Oxalis 
This is a common weed of garden lawns in Malaysia, the lawn in my garden included!  You can even find it growing in the sandy soil of your potted plants. The weed is hard to eradicate. Their stems creep under the grasses which makes it easy to escape the blades of a lawn mover. It is also quite difficult to pull out.

Propagation is by seeds which are dispersed by water and soil movements, also by lawn movers. The fruit pod is about 1-2cm long, seeds about 1.5 mm long.

It is used in traditional Malay and Indian folk medicine.  The plant has a mild acid taste due to the presence of oxalic acid. So I'm thinking if I should try getting a taste of the weed from my garden...


Notes from wikipedia:
"The leaves of wood sorrel are quite edible, with a tangy taste of lemons. A drink can be made by infusing the leaves in hot water for about 10 minutes, sweetening and then chilling. The entire plant is rich in vitamin C. Any wood sorrel is safe in low dosages, but if eaten in large quantities over a length of time can inhibit calcium absorption by the body. In India, where the plant is known as chichoda bhaji (approximately "earthalmond greens"), it is only eaten seasonally, starting around December".

Sources for further reading:
  1. Wikipedia
  2. Floral of China
  3. University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources
  4. "Upland Rice Weeds of South and Southeast Asia" book - Page 60 by Marita Ignacio Galinato, Keith Moody, Colin M. Piggin, International Rice Research Institute, Philippines Edi. 1999
  5. Daves Garden


  1. When I was a child we used to pick off the green seed pods and chew them. We called it 'Sheep Sour' yet there were no sheep anywhere around us. I doubt we ate enough to inhibit our calcium uptake.

  2. Oh it is good you gave it a very big identity here! I actually don't know its name, just know it is a weed. I sometimes notice that it is lovely but my camera cannot get a good photo, yours have nice compositions. If i will post it in the future, now i know where to see the identity, and thanks for that. Maybe also i should taste a leaf later when i go home. That sour fruit Averrhoa bilimbi, has also high oxalic acid, we must be careful as it reacts with the covers or calcium on our teeth.

  3. I guess when you take fabulous photos of it, even this annoying weed can be pretty. I don't know about eating it though...I suppose anything's worth a try, but while there's lettuce in the garden bed, I might pass on the "sheep sour". ha ha ha!

  4. oic... this is belimbing pasir... i ve heard about it before n im wonder..

  5. Nell Jean, I have never seen the seed pods yet. If I do, I'd like to try the taste of 'Sheep Sour';P

    Andrea, the sour fruit you are talking about is called Belimbing here. It is used in Malaysian cooking.

    Wendy, this week actually looks quite pretty when it is growing in a container, so sometimes I'll just leave it there.

    Herny, yes it is :)

  6. Blogumna bayıldım..

  7. Thanks for educating me on this annoying weed in my garden. However I was always under the impression that the chinese name that you've provided refer to another type of common weed which has a row of seeds under the leaf.

  8. I have oxalis as a houseplant otherwise known as shamrock plant. That variety is a bit different. I like the golden bloom.

  9. Such a pretty "weed," though. They grow all over the place in New Orleans, too. I love them!

  10. You won't believe it that if I tell you that I tried growing this weed in my garden but was very unsucessful.
    I used to make pressed leaves and add another leaf on it - to make it as a lucky clover.

    But somehow - I'm very much contented with my Oxalis T. (the purple one)
    where its huge leaves and everlasting blooms just outshine the rest of them.

    I'm actually eyeing for another Oxalis - the big version but in green leaves.

  11. If the leaves are yellow, they would look like flowers too!
    Happy Mother's Day!!

  12. Interesting read and informative too... I would try consuming it...

  13. I am a great fan of the creeping wood sorrel and have ornametalised its presence in my garden.
    Having encouraged it to grow as a base cover on the pots, they provide a fabulous contrast to the few potted plants at my home.
    They dry down, form a mulch, provide the soil with sufficient cover against the hot sun, keep moisture in the pots, in addition to adding to the organic matter in the container.
    I have also encouraged it to grow as a cover on my small ancestral coffee farm to keep down other more invasive weed species, though with less success.
    I took some beautiful photographs just to-day to create content for a blog about the oxalis when I chanced about this article.
    Glad to know that several people have opinions mixed as they are.


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