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The family is Oxalidaceae and the name is derived from the Greek oxys which means sharp and als, the word for salt. The name refers to the acid taste of the sap. Commonly known as sorrel, a word that translated means sour, there are many ornamental cultivated species and many horribly weedy ones.
For years I mistakenly grew this plant as what I thought to be a deeper colored form of Oxalis violaceae, our native wood sorrel. I was ecstatic when a friend brought me a pure white form. Busy as a bee for the last couple of years, bulking up on these two gems to make a splash of an introduction to the garden world, I was momentarily devastated when Doug Ruhren told me that what I had been growing as a superior form of Oxalis violaceae was actually Oxalis crassipes. But only momentarily, because even though the plants I was growing were not unique to horticulture, they are fantastic and useful garden plants. I guess I'll have to wait again for my 15 minutes of fame.
Though it's nativity seems unknown, most knowledgeable taxonomists speculate its origins to be South American.
Oxalis crassipes is a plant that has been a staple of southern cottage gardens for many years. Most people in colder areas seem to be timid about trying it out. But I'm here to tell you that it has survived many a winter on this iceberg of a mountain and it blooms its pretty little head off from the last frosts of Spring to the first freezes of Winter. It even holds up well during the dog days of August.
And............it's not invasive like many Oxalis species.
Very easy to propagate from the little bulbils that it sets around its base, you will soon have an impressive display. No seeds seem to be set and there are no "runners" as in some of the weedy, problem Oxalis species.
Part sun seems to be the preference, but the plants that I have in deep shade are happy, albeit much less vigorous.
Dr. Jim Waddick's <email@example.com> always useful insight follows:
"In the International Bulb Society email group there has been quite a bit of discussion in the last few years about the bulbous oxalis in general and it turns out there isn't really a lot in print about them and their garden-worthiness has been swamped by the weediness of a few 'black sheep' in the genus. Certainly no American Oxalis Society to defend them. Apparently some of the more tender S. African bulbous types are real gems for the right climate. there's also a few odd balls in the genus including some shrubby types, succulents and at least one aquatic. Sounds like they deserve someone standing up for their civil rights. (any volunteers for the A.O.S.?)"
Hey, I found a really extensive gallery of almost 4000 high quality plant images at http://www.plant-pictures.com/ Galleries like this can be quite helpful when you are trying to id or confirm the id of a particular plant. There is also a gallery at the Texas A & M website http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/gallery.htm< /A> .
Oh, by the way, you can see a picture of the real O. violaceae
the facts M'am:
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Barry Glick, Sunshine Farm and Gardens
696 Glicks Rd, Renick, WV 24966, USA
Phone: (304) 497-2208
Last modified February 24, 2009