Weed or volunteer in WNY: wood sorrel

wood sorrel in Amherst NY
This plant is wood sorrel, not clover. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald

Here’s another article on the theme: What is this plant and do I want it in my garden?

This pretty plant looks like clover with yellow flowers. It added itself to several of my pots. I hoped it was clover and would add nitrogen to my soil.

Unfortunately, it isn’t clover.

It’s wood sorrel.

“It can be aggressive,” said Lyn Chimera of Lessons from Nature. Because it can spread easily, “if it’s in the lawn, I wouldn’t worry. But if it’s in a garden bed, I would definitely weed it out.”

If it finds its way into my containers next year, I may let it be, especially if I need something to fill in the space anyway. But I will follow Chimera’s advice and pull it out of garden beds.

Wood sorrel is in the genus Oxalis, but there are many species. I don’t know which species this is.

Chimera mentioned that word sorrel is supposed to be edible; we both recommend that you do your own research to make sure that what you’re consuming is safe.

11 Comments on “Weed or volunteer in WNY: wood sorrel

  1. ‘my picture this’ app says it’s, Slender yellow woodsorrel. a species of woodsorrel. oxalis

  2. In Samuel Thayer’s book Natures’ Garden: Edible Wild Plants, he describes it as “lemon clover” because it has a sweet, citrusy flavor. It is such a pest in my gardens, that I tasted the leaves, flowers and seed pods to see if they could be useful. They are sweet and lemony, but after ingesting a small amount, my mouth began to tingle. I decided they were not suitable salad or refreshment and have continued to strive against them in my gardens. In my experience pulling the Springtime sprouts is preferable to reduce the multiplication of these babies. Pick off the flowers to foil their proliferation but do try to get the roots because they do develop rhizomes. They can even over winter!

  3. There are several features for identifying this plant. The leaves resemble a shamrock….it is a relative of the plants sold as “clover” for St. Patrick’s Day…they are also sorrels but a different species. The leaflets are heart shaped. The seed pods of wood sorrel are good for identification as they bend at a sharp angle upward…about a right angle! If you take the time to look at the leaves in the evening you will note that they fold and then open again in the morning. It is not classified as “invasive” as it is a native species. Native species can be weeds.

  4. Haha…my lawn in spring is too far gone at this point. It’s pretty enough and doesn’t get in my way otherwise, so I’ve chosen to lose this battle.

  5. Love this plant and I also buy many varieties of oxalis (especially Iron Cross). Can’t we just call them wildflowers?

  6. Wood sorrel also reproduces by rhizomes. I never suggest simply yanking it out of the soil because this leads to pieces of rhizomes left behind. Young plants actually form a tiny taproot! These lead to new plants. Unfortunately one needs to carefully dig it out! Be extra careful if there are seed pods present because they pop open and send the seeds in all directions…..more sorrel! If you are a user of pesticides you will have quite a task because it is quite difficult to spray sorrel without attacking plants you want! Wood sorrel is NOT listed as an invasive species in NYS. Its flowers are actually a food source for native bees.

  7. Very happy to know what this is. I love the little yellow flowers that appear in my lawn. I’ll let it stay there. Thanks.

  8. it’s a great ground cover in the early spring. If you are not into leeping ‘grass’ it’s a great alternative. dies off by mid summer. Unfortunately it may be classified as an ‘invasive species’ here in the WNY area. Comes back every spring.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *