Some links about seeds
I've been weeding a lot lately

Oxalis Attacks Bay Area

I've been getting a number of letters about Cape oxalis (Oxalis pes-caprae), a weed that is now in full bloom in San Francisco. Also known as Bermuda buttercup, this South African native wildflower is has pretty yellow flowers that are cheery to see blooming on weedy road verges, but in a garden, it is a terrible pest. It grows in fall, blooms about now, and then dies back in later spring.

Cape oxalis grows from small tear-drop shaped bulbs that are dormant in summer, so many an unsuspecting gardener has planted in summer without realizing it was there. When it does appear, some think it is a clover, since it has trefoil leaves like a clover, and hope it will add nitrogen to soil. It won't. I have written my February 21st S.F. Chronicle column on this weed and how to (attempt to) get rid of it, so check out on that day.

Oxalis gets its sour flavor from oxalic acid, a substance that is also found in French sorrel, and, to a lesser extent in chard, beet greens, and spinach. We shouldn't eat great quantities of a plant that contains as much oxalic acid as Oxalis, but it is a nice nibble or could be added to salad in small amounts. In fact, I just read an article by a Greek writer about using Cape oxalis with French sorrel and other wild greens in soup or savory pie. I shall try to get recipes!


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Yes, they are bulbs. There is a mother bulb at the bottom, which can get rather large, and many smaller ones that form along the stem underground or just at ground level.

I just wrote a second column on this weed, since I got so many letters from the first. It should appear in the Home Section of the Chronicle and on on March 14th.


Good luck with that, Martha. The solution I keep hearing for established populations is: pretend you wanted it. It is true that it vanishes quickly.

Pam, is it bulbs or corms? I'm seen it called both.


Thank you for the informative article in the SF Chronicle. I found your blog through it. The oxalis was popping up in my back yard, and I had noticed it in neighbors borders and lawns.I had no idea it had a bulb. Since this is my first season in a new home in El Cerrito, I'm doing a lot of walking around the 'hood, and looking at possible plants to replant my front lawn with drought resistant California natives. I also plan to plant some milkweed for the monarchs, and other nectar flowers for the hummers.
But first I will see to the Oxalis!!!

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