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Plant of the day: hairy woodsorrel

Oxalis_albicans2A stroll along the coastal bluff reveals little yellow flowers peeking from beneath the sagebrush and scattered across the grassland. Each handful of blossoms is scattered across a mounded patch of three-parted (cloverlike) leaves. This is hairy woodsorrel, or Oxalis albicans. The lemon-yellow petals splay outward around a hub of stamens like stout spokes on a cart wheel. If you nibble a leaf you’ll find the refreshing tartness that is characteristic of the sorrels.

Even the petals of hairy woodsorrel have a few minute hairs, and the leaves are distinctly hairy. This little flower is a native that is found only in coastal California–but it has a similar-looking cousin (O. corniculata) which is non-native and invasive; a common garden weed. Recognize the native hairy woodsorrel, which likes to grow near the coast, because it has slightly large petals¬† (8-12mm long).¬†O. albicans also does not grow roots at the leafy nodes of its stems, and its taproot is woody instead of fleshy (another name for our native is radishroot woodsorrel). Oxalis_albicans1

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