Yellow woodsorrel

Encyclopedia Article

Yellow woodsorrel                                   Oxalis stricta L.

Family:   Oxalidaceae (Woodsorrel family)
Life cycle:  Perennial/annual depending upon climate
Native status:  Native to N. America
Habitat:  Poorly maintained turf; waste areas

General description:  Young plants are erect, but as age they become spreading.  Leaves are light-green, trifoliolate with heart-shaped leaflets.  Yellow flowers with five petals; fruit is a 5-ridged, cylindrical capsule up to 0.6 inch long.  Spreads by seeds and rhizomes.

Key ID traits:  Light-green, heart-shaped leaflets on trifoliolate leaf.

Similar species:   Yellow woodsorrel is often mistaken for a legume because of the trifoliate leaves resembling those of clovers.  However, yellow woodsorrel lacks stipules on the base of petioles, a characteristic of the trifololate legumes (clovers; black medic) and it has heart-shaped leaflets.

Miscellaneous:  Leaves fold up at night.  Plants have a lemony flavor, and are often used in salads.  The flavor is due to oxalic acid.  The seed capsules ‘explode’, dispersing seed distances greater than 10 feet.


Yellow woodsorrel leaves have three, heart-shaped leaflets.


Often mistaken for a clover because of the trifoliate leaves, flowers of yellow woodsorrel have 5 uniform petals, whereas clovers and other legumes have irregular flowers with petals known as banner, wings and keels.


The ridged seed capsule is up to 0.6 inch long, when mature it 'explodes's and disperses seed up to 12 feet.

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