Sour Grass is Yellow Oxalis in the Yard

The yellow flowering oxalis is a very common plant in our location here among the trees. It seems to prefer areas of moisture and shade. You can find it in lawns, gardens, waste places, fields, roadsides and open woodlands.

As kids we called the yellow-flowering oxalis “sour grass”. The seed pods are edible and taste a bit sour. I wonder if this is one of those things that big brother had me try first! Actually, it was probably just one of those things that people know about their own landscape, like what plants are edible and which aren’t. Some of this knowledge is passed on orally from generation to generation, but if it’s not in your experience, how would you know? Good thing you stopped by! :)

Oxalis herbs are also referred to as Wood Sorrels. The wood sorrels are marked by clover-like leaves in threes with each leaflet being heart-shaped. Yellow Wood Sorrel, Oxalis europaea, is an introduced species here in Pennsylvania and it’s native to Europe. There is also a pink flowering species, called Violet Wood Sorrel, Oxalis violacea, that I have not seen growing wild in our area of Pennsylvania.

Small yellow oxalis came up through cracks between flagstones.

Small yellow oxalis came up through cracks between flagstones. Never mind the dandelion in the background.

Leaves are light green to maroon. When the plant has maroon leaves it makes the yellow blossoms really stand out.

Wood sorrel flowers have five petals and ten stamens and measure about a half-inch across. Oxalis flowers and leaves close up in the evening and re-open in the sunlight. Cloudy days will keep many Oxalis plants from opening their flowers at all.

This entry was posted in Plant Sightings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Sour Grass is Yellow Oxalis in the Yard

  1. Janice says:

    Growing up in Oklahoma, we called this plant Sheep Showers.

  2. wilde says:

    Hi there, Janice.
    Never heard the name ‘sheep showers’, but it’s kinda cool and hard to say three times fast! I wonder, do sheep eat it?

  3. Jenny says:

    I forget who told us as kids about “sour grass” but we used to love it and tell everyone we knew to try it. I recently got a comment from one of my young cousins at the time all grown up recalling when sister and I had made her eat grass. I figured the name told to us must have been just a fluke till I found several sites.

  4. wilde says:

    That’s so funny, Jenny! I wonder where you grew up. I was in the Midwest and can picture a scene just like you describe. Not exactly an after-school snack, but we loved it too.

    Thanks for dropping a note! Stop by again!

  5. Jason says:

    Hello! I was born in MI, and moved all around. I have eaten odd things from different yards (some I’m not sure about). But this one is actually new to me (as an edible). I think I have ID’ed some in my back yard, it looks just like most of the pics I see and by description seems the same. Is there any one truly unique feature I can look at to be sure it’s okay before I go trying to make a salad out of it?

  6. wilde says:

    Hi Jason,

    It’s great that you want to be sure of your plant identification before sampling. Many people have gotten sick , or worse, by eating the wrong things, so you can’t be too careful.

    Sourgrass can be identified by the long-stemmed leaves with three heart-shaped leaflets joined at their bases, five-petaled flowers, and elongated, candle-like seed pods. If your specimen matches that description, you’re good to go. It should taste sour.

  7. vijack says:

    We have a lot of these growing in our yard. I’ve always kinda wondered if they were safe to eat.

  8. wilde says:

    Hey vijack,

    I wonder where you live or there abouts? If you care to write back and let us know your approx. vicinity, thanks!

    We definitely have lots of them coming up in the grass, in the garden, in the flower beds, in the woods,…. Seems like they can grow just about anywhere! Might just have to try some on a salad this weekend. Have you tasted the sour grass yet?

  9. Delona Kaye Grizzle says:

    I loved sour grass when I was a kid. Lived in Georgia and it was all in our yard. It was lots better than a candy sour ball.

  10. wilde says:

    Hi Delona,
    I know what you mean. It was fun finding them and eating the little “candlesticks” – and such a pretty yellow color too.

  11. Gary says:

    As an eigth grader back in the 50′s in OK, my 2 buddies and I made some “strong” but smooth lemon/lime flavored wine from sheep shower. Good but we over did it on the sugar. I seem to remember being told to beware of the plant that grew near and looked like the sheep shower except the bottom half of it’s stem was purple. It was supposed to be toxic and was called snake shower. I thought about trying it again but was afraid of picking the wrong one.

  12. wilde says:

    Hi Gary,

    Making wine from a simple yard weed sounds like fun! Have you tried making it since you were a kid?

    I don’t know about ‘snake shower’, but I suspect you were told a wive’s tale. Most of the oxalis or wood sorrels can have violet hues or purple stems and leaves. I’ll have to post a photo to show this, but the oxalis that grow here early in the season and those receiving a lot of shade will start out as purple or maroon-leaved plants.

    Thanks for telling us about your experiences with sheep shower.

  13. Marian J. Johnson says:

    My sisters and brothers use to eat sour grass in North Caroline.

  14. wilde says:

    What, Marian? You missed out on all the fun?

  15. servergirl1 says:

    This is one of the first plants I introduce my grand kids to.
    It grows wild in my yard in Tennessee.

  16. wilde says:

    Hey Carol,
    I smile about this plant a lot. I guess it’s about remembering discovering it as a kid. Thanks for sharing the knowledge with the youngins!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>