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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea)

Found in the southeast corner of North Dakota, violet wood sorrel can be found in bloom there as early as mid-May. The plant can be found throughout most of eastern North America.

Violet wood sorrel is perennial from rose-colored underground bulbs. A thin, icicle-like water-storage organ may lie below the bulb. Several flowers are clustered atop thin stalks up to 8 inches long. The half-inch wide flowers are usually violet, but may be nearly white. Each three-lobed leaf is also on a slender stalk; thus the plant has no stem.

Violet wood sorrel grows in native grasslands and openings in woodland. Plants seem to do best in rich soils such as are found in coulees or at the bases of hills. The plant likely is avoided by livestock and thus flourishes in heavily-grazed pastures, perhaps because the juice is soured by a high concentration of oxalic acid. The leaves and tubers of other wood sorrels are used for food, and in decoctions used to relieve thirst, but the plant discussed here has no known economic uses.

Both the genus and the family (Oxalidaceae) derive their names from the Greek oxys, "sour," in reference to the juice. The specific epithet violacea means "violet" in botanical Latin. Violet wood sorrel was first described for science in 1753 by the Swedish father of modern biological taxonomy Carl von Linne (Linnaeus).

Return to Oxalidaceae (The Wood Sorrel Family)

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