A small family of low, recumbent herbs with trifoliate leaves and perfect, regular flowers.
A. Wood Sorrel.
B. Violet Wood Sorrel.
White Wood Sorrel (Oxalis Acetosella) is one of the most delicate and dainty of our woodland flowers. It is commonly found in cool, damp situations and is very partial to mountainous regions. The flowers are very frail looking, about an inch broad, borne on long slender peduncles from the root; the five, spreading petals are white, veined with crimson, giving the flower a delicate pinkish blush. The leaves are also on long, slender petioles from the root; they are trifoliate or clover-like, each of the three leaflets being inversely heart-shaped, - that is, with the end notched and with two rounded lobes. White Wood Sorrel is found from N. S. to Saskatchewan and south to N. E., N. Y. and in mountains to N. C.
Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis Violacea) is a very dainty species, perhaps more beautiful than the preceding. The long slender flower stalks bear at their summits three or more pale magenta flowers, while those of the last species have but one. The flowers are very similar except in color, but are a trifle smaller than those of the white species.
The leaves of both these sorrels are very sensitive and fold up, if handled; they also close at dusk and only open when the suns rays beam on them the following morning. The juices of these plants are very acid; the well known Oxalic acid is obtained from the leaves of both these kinds of sorrel.
These Sorrels bear cleistogamous flowers at their bases, - that is, flowers that fertilize themselves in the bud and never open. The roots are perennial, creeping and scaly-toothed.
Yellow Wood Sorrel. Oralis stricta.
Yellow Wood Sorrel; Lady's Sorrel (Oxalis Corniculata) is not a woodland plant but is very common along roadsides, in gardens, dooryards and fields. The pale green, slender stem is quite erect, branches but little, if at all, and grows from three to twelve inches tall. The leaves are long-stemmed and trifoliate, the three leaflets being broadly heart-shaped. They are very sensitive and close if roughly handled. They also close at night, or "go to sleep," as children call it.
The leaves have very acid and sour juices, similar in taste to those of the common Red Sorrel that, by the way, belongs to an entirely different family (Buck-wheat). Country school children often chew the leaves of both of these, as the sour taste has an agreeable twang.
The bright golden-yellow flowers are quite fragrant; they open only in the sunshine and close tightly at night. They grow in few-flowered umbels at the end of the stem on slender peduncles from the axils of some of the leaves; the petals are thin, notched at the ends and set in a five-parted calyx. After their flowering season, little erect, pointed pods take the place of the flowers. This species is a very common herb or weed throughout our range.