Oxalis smithiana

Oxalis 0011

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at an attractive specimen of the Sorrel family or Oxalidaceae.

Oxalis smithiana (Narrow-leaved Sorrel in English, Klawersuring in Afrikaans and bolila in Sesotho), is a herb that typically grows to 250 mm in height. Oxalis is derived from the Latin words oxys, meaning acid or sour and als meaning salt, and likely refers to the taste of the flower if eaten. This wildflower can become a prominent feature in damp grassland and even among moss-covered rocks in forested areas. The plant has been recorded at altitudes of up to 2560 m A.S.L., and is relatively widespread from the W.C. through to Mpumalanga.

This particular specimen was found growing on a section of the Mallen Walk trail. The fusion of pink, white and yellow on the flower makes it an attractive subject for photography.

The 3 leaflets of O. smithiana are deeply divided with narrow lobes and measure approx. 20 mm by 3 mm, all held in a basal rosette. As is typical for the family, the flowers possess 5 petals, however unlike many wildflowers these flowers occur solitary rather than clumped. The petals are a bright pink grading to white in the calyx (throat) with a short yellow stamen and slender stalk of around 120 mm. Flowering in Nov – end Jan.

Uses:

Cultural uses

Used in traditional medicines as a remedy for tapeworm.

Gardening

Makes for an attractive garden plant or may be otherwise transplanted as a pot-plant.

Food

The leaves and bulbs of the plant are eaten by the children of the Sesotho whilst the entire plant is consumed by cattle.

Ecology

The flowers are pollinated by butterflies of various species, which in return are privy to the flowers nectar.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for O. smithiana has been recorded as of Least Concern.