Oxalis - big hairy leaflets - Montagu WCape

Observed by Marion MacleanMarion Maclean is knowledgeable about PlantsMarion Maclean's earned reputation in PlantsMarion Maclean's earned reputation in PlantsMarion Maclean's earned reputation in PlantsMarion Maclean's earned reputation in PlantsMarion Maclean's earned reputation in Plants on 2nd July 2012
Oxalis - big hairy leaflets - Montagu WCape
2012_05_30_MM_2580 oxalis LR
2012_06_02_MM_2670 oxalis LR
2012_06_02_MM_2675 oxalis LR
2012_06_02_MM_2680 oxalis LR
2012_07_02_MM_3493 oxalis LR
2012_07_02_MM_3494 oxalis LR
2012_07_02_MM_3495 oxalis LR
2012_07_02_MM_3496 oxalis LR
2012_07_02_MM_3498 oxalis LR
2012_07_02_MM_3528 oxalis LR

Two tiny populations (about six plants each), one with pink flowers, one with pale violet, several hundred metres apart. The other Oxalis species here form huge colonies. I have never seen this one with such large leaves, soft not succulent, leaflets linear with long hairs, before.

Location: Ruigtevlei SK, Montagu
Species interactions

No interactions present.


penta = 5

Surely var pentaphylla has 5 leaflets - this has 3!

Please go and dig up the bulb!

There are two possibilities here - Oxalis eckloniana var. sonderi, which is common as muck, or O. microdonta, which is only known from Montagu, which I have never been able to find, and is listed as data deficient. The bulbs are very different - O. microdonta has a long rhizome (up to 20cm) long) and a blackish brown bulb, whilst O. eckloniana has a shortish rhizome and a light reddish-brown bulb. You can plant the bulb again after you've dug it up, if you have qualms...

I dug it up!

I'm none the wiser. I don't know if the bulbs are really deep and I've missed them altogether (I did dig deeper but found no bulby things), or if the small bump below the leaves is a light reddish bulb. I didn't want to dig these up unnecessarily coz there were so few. I really don't mind digging up the bulbs if you need them for ID, they go into the garden. But, as possibly in this case, if I break the plant without getting the bulb then I feel bad.

No, you've missed the bulb

Although, if the scale is anything to go by, this looks like a fairly long rhizome, which would fit O. microdonta better. The bulb would be at the end of the long white rhizome...

Don't feel bad about this - you can plant that particular plant, and chances are it will generate it's own new bulb fairly quickly. There is a reason why Oxalis are such weeds!


Well, I have min plants to "practice" on, so do you have any collection tips? They are in pure clay which is absolutely sodden (luckily not in shale like most of them). Clay is impossible to dig dry (except perhaps with major industrial machinery and a couple of jackhammers), but not that easy when wet either coz it clumps something horrible and won't crumble. I understand that the bulbs will just regenerate next year, but I would prefer not to damage any more plants unnecessarily.

The rhizome on the left-hand plant is 120 mm. I think these bulbs may be up to 200 mm deep - flippin' difficult to get to, especially in one piece.

Any suggestions?


Sounds like this one is really trying to hide. Is is particularly tasty to Porcupines (I know you'll need to catch one to ask, or alternatively, is there much digging around them.)?
(its quite fun at Tokai watching interns carefully trying to get parts while not damaging plants, where a few metres away dozens of half excavated half chewed plants are lying from the porcy's activities the night before).

No digging

Trust me, I would have taken advantage of any help I could get. I have found babianas dug up by baboons which is something one has to admire because they are very deeply embedded (up to 40 cm) in shale bands.


and they have contractile roots that pull the bulbs down if you try digging them up.
But they do taste good!

geologists pickaxe!

Absolutely required for any Oxalis collecting, especially for the deep-bulbed species. Alternatively, a trowel will do, or even a garden fork.

For maximum effect: recruit innocent but enthusiastic colleagues to dig out Oxalis strigosa (bulb 50 cm deep), provide pickaxe, and sit back and watch as initial excitement turns to swearing as they open the second Kimberley Big Hole...

*evil grin*


You forgot to mention the beer and the comfortable seat, and the next beer and the promise of a beer when they got the bulb, and the sun reaching xenith ...

Fnah fnah fnah

Unfortunately I am my only innocent enthusiast. The long screwdriver is my weapon of choice because I can get into shale. But I think this requires the big guns...will get back to you shortly. Hey ho and away I go into the wild blue yonder!

First a bit of brute force and ignorance...

...got rid of the first metre or so, then some dynamite got through a few kms, followed by a teeny tiny archeologists brush to clear away the last grains of sand (was sand coz had ended up on a beach in China and I had a look around coz I've never been to China before which is why it took me a bit longer than expected to get back to you).

Depth 25 cm.

NOW we're cooking with gas

That does not look like the bulb of O. eckloniana - way too dark. I think you may have found O. microdonta, Data Deficient!

Is there a way I can contact you, to get hold of the plant or have a look at the population? I promise I won't make you dig! My email - kco[at]sun.ac.za - with obvious replacement. This species is special way beyond its data deficient status - it has a pollen type utterly unique in the genus (Leanne Dreyer, my PhD supervisor, did the pollen work, and neither she nor I have ever seen this species alive). So I would love to get it, if possible.


You'll have to be quick if you want to see it this year, the populations and flowering duration are unusually small and short (respectively).

Read below this line - click on link - all will be revealed...ta dah!

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