Oxalis acetosella (Common Wood Sorrel)

Plant Info
Also known as: Mountain Woodsorrel
Family:Oxalidaceae (Wood Sorrel)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich, moist woods, wooded swamps
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:2 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] Single flower, often nodding, at the tip of a slender stalk that rises slightly above the leaves. Flowers are ½ to ¾ inch across, with 5 oblong-elliptic petals slightly notched at the tip, white to pale pink with darker pink veins and a spot of yellow at the base of each petal. In the center are 10 white stamens and 5 slender white styles longer than the stamens.

[photo of sepals] Behind the flower, alternating with the petals, are 5 narrowly lance-oblong sepals ¼ to 1/3 as long as the petals. Petal-less, self-fertile (cleistogamous) flowers are produced late in the season on drooping stalks.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, clover-like, ½ to ¾ inch across with three heart-shaped leaflets, wider than long, often folding down, sparsely covered with appressed brown hairs, the slender leaf stalks shorter than the flower stalks, and attached to a scaly, creeping, underground stem (rhizome).

[photo of stem] The flowering stem is 2 to 5½ inches long, hairy near the flower and more sparsely so below, often reddish towards the base, jointed just above the middle with two scale-like attendant bracts.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is an erect, rounded capsule, somewhat flattened with five sections, each containing 1 or 2 seeds.


Common Wood Sorrel is the least well known of our four native sorrel species. A shy delicate flower most often hidden away in cool woods and swamps in the Arrowhead, it can form large creeping colonies, spreading in and around a large area. One population we encountered however was in semi-open sandy pines at a popular wayside rest. While the DNR lists it as introduced into the state, most other references cite it as native and its Minnesota range is nicely contiguous with the rest of its North American range. It is easily identified by the hairy, clover-like leaves and distinctive flowers.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Lake County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lake County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Norma - T59 R12 Section 17, St. Louis County, East Central
on: 2016-06-30 11:19:01

Found about dozen plants flowering on 6/29/16.

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