Scape. - One-flowered, two to five inches high. Leaves. - Divided into three clover - like leaflets. Flower. - White veined with red, solitary. Calyx. - Of five sepals. Corolla. - Of five petals. Stamens. - Ten. Pistil. - One with five styles.
Surely nowhere can be found a daintier carpeting than that made by the clover-like foliage of the wood sorrel when studded with its rose-veined blossoms in the northern woods of June. At the very name comes a vision of mossy nooks where the sunlight only comes on sufferance, piercing its difficult path through the tent-like foliage of the forest, resting only long enough to become a golden memory.
The early Italian painters availed themselves of its chaste beauty. Mr. Ruskin says: "Fra Angelico's use of the Oxalis Acetosella is as faithful in representation as touching in feeling. The triple leaf of the plant and white flower stained purple probably gave it strange typical interest among the Christian painters."
Throughout Europe it bears the odd name of "Hallelujah" on account of its flowering between Easter and Whitsuntide, the season when the Psalms sung in the churches resound with that word. There has been an unfounded theory that this title sprang from St. Patrick's endeavor to prove to his rude audience the possibility of a Trinity in Unity from the three-divided leaves. By many this ternate leaf has been considered the shamrock of the ancient Irish.
The English title, "cuckoo-bread," refers to the appearance of the blossoms at the season when the cry of the cuckoo is first heard.
Our name sorrel is from the Greek for sour and has reference to the acrid juice of the plant. The delicate leaflets "sleep" at night; that is, they droop and close one against another.
Plate XVII. Wood Sorrel - O. Acetosella