Choose a country to see content specific to your location

Skip to main content

Oxalis | No ordinary flower

Published on April 22nd 2020
A close up of a flower
After the first autumn rains, you might start noticing delicate, brightly coloured flower petals and clover-like leaves emerging from the ground - almost out of nowhere. These sweet little flowers belong to the genus Oxalis and you will find them growing in almost any habitat - forests, wetlands, disturbed ground, rocky hillsides, along watercourses and even in the savannah.
A close up of a flower
There are more than 770 Oxalis species worldwide with about 270 of those indigenous to southern Africa. Interestingly, Oxalis is the seventh-largest genus in the Cape Floral Region and includes 118 species with 94 of these being restricted to this beautiful fynbos region.
A close up of a flower
Our indigenous Oxalis species are often sadly mistaken for troublesome exotic weeds such as creeping sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) from North America or garden sorrel (Oxalis latifolia) native to Mexico. However, our indigenous Oxalis species make for beautiful, showy, water-wise garden plants perfect for growing in containers, garden beds, rockeries, or as a seasonal groundcover.
Some green leaves and yellow flowers of a Oxalis corniculata plant in the wild

Creeping Woodsorrel

Oxalis corniculata

Pink Wood Sorrel

Oxalis latifolia

A close up of a flower garden
Tip | Plant indigenous Oxalis species in your lawn to transform it into a seasonal flowering carpet. Oxalis purpurea can often be seen flowering in lawns.
A large purple flower is in a garden
Oxalis bowiei flowering in @andrewkearney1's bckyard.
Oxalis species vary considerably in flower colour that includes different shades of pink and purple, salmon, orange, yellow, white and red. Flowers respond to light and temperature so the petals twist into a bud at nightfall or in dull weather and swirl open their trumpet-like flowers again on sunny days. Oxalis flower profusely from autumn to winter, and into spring, lighting up the landscape with their iridescent flowers. During the warm, dry summer months winter-growing species go dormant and save up food and water in underground storage organs (bulbs).
A close up of a flower
Tip | After flowering, leave the leaves on the plant to allow for all the nutrients and moisture to feed the bulb in preparation for the dormant period.
If you spot an Oxalis flower, peel away two petals to see ten stamens (male organs), they are always carried in two series - five short and five long. Another well-known trait of Oxalis is their sour-tasting stalks and leaves. Actually, the name Oxalis comes from the Greek oxis meaning ‘acid’ which refers to this sour-tasting sap.
A close up of a flower
Fun fact | The sour leaves and stalks of Oxalis pes-caprae are an essential ingredient of the famous South African dish waterblommetjie stew. Just don’t eat too much, oxalic acid can be poisonous if consumed in excessive amounts.
Oxalis are very prolific and spread readily on their own by producing smaller bulbils, seed, runners and offsets. Generally, they enjoy full sun and well-draining soil, but there are species to suit almost every situation whether full shade, semi-shade, clayey-, sandy- or loamy soils. Water well during the growing season (April and May) and give a good fertilizer boost before the flowering season for a magnificent display.
A close up of a flower

Notice any Oxalis flowers popping up in your garden? Share them in a post and use the hashtag #Oxalis.

Community Posts


Oxalis bowiei


Oxalis on a sports field at Radloff park.


White oxalis covered in morning dew in the Roggeveld


Oxalis pes-caprae. Suring. Pretty #weedsinmygarden #homegarden #mygarden #bee #beesinmygarden #insectinmygarden #flowersinmygarden


I previously posted 3 photos of the yellow Oxalis plants in my garden. Today I discovered some Mauve Oxalis. They make a pretty picture, yet they are seem to be “Weeds”


Delicate Oxalis flowers are popping up everywhere in response to the first rains. These petite blooms have 'sleep movements' as they close during the evening and open in response to the light of the morning sun. The genus name Oxalis comes from the Greek oxis - meaning sour - this refers to the sour sap of some species (in Afrikaans called 'Suurtjies'). Oxalis pes-caprae is often enjoyed in salads due to its crunchy texture and sour taste. #oxalis #suurtjies #fynbos

Oxalis species


We hold the world’s largest reference collection of the Cape winter rainfall Oxalis species, used for the major systematics work of Dr. Kenneth Oberlander, with Prof. Leanne Dreyer. The Cape is of course a global centre of Oxalis diversity and endemism. With the whole collection is just waking up from summer dormancy the Oxalis benches are an autumn wonderland, and even as a botanist it is mesmerising to see the variation in leaf and flower form and texture all in one place. #oxalis #southafricanplants #SUBotGarden #flower


Little Oxalis were jumping out all over the Tankwa Karoo. This one with beautiful colored leaves!


Friday flower: Oxalis pes-caprae Cape sorrel | Suring Known for its pleasant sour taste. It's also lovely on a pizza ! (Taken at our Veldkos workshop @Babylonstoren )


Oxalis hirta is a type of geophytic sorrel with bulbs underground, which makes them very drought tollerant. They are some of the first geophytes to flower in early winter in response to the first rains.


Oxalis pes-caprae is in flower at Babylonsyoren. Easily grown and very floriferous, a pioneer on disturbed places and agreat indigenous plant for the new fynbos garden. Flowers and leaves can be eaten fresh.


Oxalis and ‘Sterretjie’ on the Rondebosch Common today. Many of the plants here are endemic to the region. But - why so many flowers out I almost mid-winter. Maybe they are confused by the balmy winter


Veldkos enjoyed at our recent workshop.. Flatbread with Cape sorrel/oxalis suring and fresh fior de latte handmade by our cheese fundi Alta Abers. Spekboom, wild olives & waterblommetjies were also on the menu.


Little lila oxalis enjoying the bit of sun we had today! Spot these along the road in Franschhoek pass. Groups of flowers are now starting to become visible all around reminding of springtime close-by!


Wild Oxalis pes-caprae, yellow sorrel or "surings" as this locally indigenous winter growing bulb is known, makes foraging for salad greens easy as it flowers in abundance around gardens, roadsides and veld. Leaves where traditionally added to "waterblommetjie bredie"


Keep the Vit. C up with traditional khoi snack. Surings are indespensible in a waterblommetjie bredie and traditionally leaves, roots and corms were eaten raw or often cooked in milk. Useful addition when cooking the ice plant (Tetragonia decumbens)or other bland leaves. Other oxalis species were important food sources for their corms. It is the the only dicoteledonous plant known to produce corms. @karrie


Beautiful Oxalis depressa and O. convexula Part of the Oxalidaceae family. This genus occurs throughout most of the world except for the polar areas, species diversity is particularly rich in Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. These plants are annual or perennial.The leaves are divided into three to ten or more obovate and top notched leaflets, arranged palmately with all the leaflets of roughly equal size. The majority of species have 3 leaflets that looks similar to those of some clovers.

Curious to learn more? Dig into the incredible diversity of Oxalis species:

Love gardens? Sign up for Candide’s Almanac!

A weekly edit of freshly picked gardening tips, travel guides, and the best botanical days out happening near you. Unsubscribe at any time.



About usCareersPrivacy policy

Candide is your guide to visiting UK public gardens. Find the best gardens, buy tickets and enter with just your phone. Download the app for offline tickets, community access and more.

Terms & ConditionsCode of Conduct

© 2022 Candide

Made in Bristol