Oxalis triangularis & Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae-False Shamrock, Wood Sorrel, Love Plant, etc.

Oxalis triangularis on 4-15-12, #86-55.

False Shamrock, Wood Sorrel, Love Plant

Oxalis triangularis

oks-AL-iss try-an-gew-LAIR-iss


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae

oks-AL-iss  try-an-gew-LAIR-iss  pa-pil-ee-uh-NAY-see-ee (eye)


Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis

oks-AL-iss  reg-NEL-ee-eye


Oxalis triangularis on 5-26-12, #94-18.

My good friend and fellow plant collector, Walley Morse, of Greenville, Mississippi gave me my start of the Oxalis triangularis. I believe he brought them in the spring of 2012 but possibly the fall of 2011. I believe my initial research led me to believe it was Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis but that proved incorrect. Oxalis regnellii is a synonym of Oxalis triangularis.


Oxalis triangularis on 6-11-12, #99-41.

It seems I have updated the name of this plant more than most that have needed to be updated. Mainly because I didn’t do proper research in the beginning and there is a lot of misinformation online as far as the correct name goes. Let me see, I think Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis, Oxalis triangularis var. regnellii, Oxalis triangularis, and Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae. I have even seen Oxalis regnellii atropurpurea online. Actually, there is only one accepted infraspecific name and the others named have not even been listed as synonyms on any plant name database. There are several other Oxalis species that are also now synonyms of Oxalis triangularis.

Oxalis triangularis A.St.-Hil. is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Oxalis. It was named and described by Auguste François César Prouvençal de Saint-Hilaire in Flora Brasiliae Meridionalis in 1825.

This species was also named and described as Oxalis regnellii Miq. by Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miquel in Linnaea in 1845. It was later decided it was a synonym of Oxalis triangularis.

Plants of the World Online lists a WHOPPING 547 accepted species of Oxalis as of March 2 when I updated this page. There were 551 accepted species in the genus when I previously updated. There are species native to most parts of the world in many different climates. One of the most common Oxalis species growing just about everywhere I have lived is the Oxalis dillenii which I have been nibbling on since I was a barefoot little kid

Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae

Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 7-9-17, #355-34.

When my sister and niece came down to do some plant shopping on July 1, 2017, I took them first to Wagler’s Greenhouse. I found she had a few Amorphophallus and she said I could have one (we do a lot of plant trading). I picked out a pot which also had an Oxalis triangularis growing with it. You know, for so long I have been missing something since I came back to the farm… I missed my Oxalis triangularis from Mississippi and had often thought about them. I was very glad to now have another one.


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 7-19-17, #357-59.

The strangest thing was this Oxalis triangularis was MUCH bigger than the plants I had in Mississippi. I thought that was a bit odd but really never gave it much thought. Then when I was doing “further” research for this page, I paid attention to the infraspecific name Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae. I clicked on site after site and came to the conclusion that perhaps maybe that infraspecific name was a larger leaved and larger growing subspecies of Oxalis triangularis. Now, I realized that there are green and purple-leaved plants of Oxalis triangularis and always thought the “varieties” or “subspecies” were the purple… But, apparently not but possibly. Information is somewhat vague on that subject. In fact, if you do an image search of Oxalis triangularis, you will see plants with green, various shades of purple, and the purple variegated leaves. All representing the same species or subspecies… It is ALSO possible this could be a cultivar by the name ‘Atropurpurea’ (See Dave’s Garden below). The Plant of the Week website has a page indicating a plant by the name of Oxalis triangularis atropurpurea. Well, there is no such “official” scientific name.


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 8-29-17, #369-67.

So, it is quite highly possible that this Oxalis triangularis is actually the subspecies Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae.

Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae (Hoffmanns. ex Zucc.) Lourteig is the correct and accepted infraspecific name for this plant. It was named and described by Alicia Lourteig in Flora Ilustrada Catarinense in 1983. The basionym, Oxalis papilionaceae Hoffmanns. ex Zucc., was named and described by Johann Centurius von Hoffmannsegg and Joseph Gerhard Zuccarini in 1825. The name of the publication is Denkschriften der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München. I’m serious.

Although Plants of the World Online by Kew list Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae as a synonym of Oxalis triangularis I am sticking with the subspecies. That is legal. 🙂 As long as you use a name that was validly published apparently you can use any name you choose. Well, it has to be reasonable. You shouldn’t use a species name that has nothing to do with the plant. The reason I am continuing to use the subspecies name is because it is definitely different than the species. I may not have realized that unless I had grown both. The subspecies is definitely larger and can grow up to 20″ tall with MUCH larger leaves.

Plants of the World Online list 20 synonyms of Oxalis triangularis which includes this subspecies. I think at some point they will also be in agreement so I am already ready. 🙂


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae leaf underside on 8-29-17, #369-68.


Family: Oxalidaceae
Origin: Central and western South America
Zones: USDA Zones 6b-11 (-5 to 40° F)
Size: 6-12”
Light: Light to part shade
Soil: Well-drained soil. Prefers not to dry out all the way.
Water: Average water needs. I think it likes water when the top of the soil becomes dry. Do not overwater.


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae flowers closed for the night on 8-29-17, #369-69.

Not only do the flowers close up in the afternoon, but as it gets darker, the leaves fold downward and inward.

This plant has weird dormancy issues that can drive a person nuts. If your plant dies, don’t throw it out… Remove the dead leaves then after a few weeks give it a little water and it may come back up. It is one of those “just because it is dead doesn’t mean it is dead” plants. Some information online says it just needs a few weeks of dormancy off and on. Well, mine shot craps before I bought the plants inside and I have seen no trace of it.

I also found out this plant can be grown as a houseplant. I could possibly attempt to do a little digging in the Amorphophallus pot and see if I can find the bulbs for the Oxalis… Or maybe I will just wait until spring and see if both will return.

After the Amorphophallus went dormant and I bought the plants inside, I started digging around in the pot to find all three “bulbs”. At the time, I didn’t realize the Oxalis also grew from bulbs. So, no telling if the Oxalis will come back up. As usual, we shall see.



New Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 5-5-18, #435-15.

My sister and niece came down from the city to go plant shopping at the four local Amish greenhouses on May 5 (2018). We went to Wagler’s first since they are on the southeast side of town and because they are our favorite. We looked around a bit, then I went to my favorite section where Mrs. Wagler keeps her plants she shares with others. I found several pots of Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae and decided I would pick up a couple of pots in case mine didn’t come back up. I told her, “You can never have too many Oxalis.’ I am trying to teach her scientific names, but she just looks at me and smiles.

The bigger pot has a really nice cluster and the smaller only has a few. NICE!


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae coming up in the pot on 5-5-18, #435-14.

When I was putting the plants I had bought on the plant tables behind the shed, I noticed the Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae was coming in the pot with the Amorphophallus. Like I said, you can never have too many Oxalis. 🙂 Now, when is the Amorphophallus going to come up?


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 5-17-17, #443-70.

The new Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae looking good!


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 7-29-18, #487-73.

I had to move the potted plants by the shed to the front and back porches of the house on July 4 because of a Japanese Beetle invasion. It was much worse in 2018 than in 2017. The plant tables were under a Chinese Elm tree that the beetles love so the environment completely changed.


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae flowers on 7-29-18, #487-74.

I am not a pink person but I suppose I just have to go with it, huh?


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 8-26-18, #499-29.

I moved the Oxalis around a bit to find the “just right” spot. The front porch has a roof and faces west so the light can be a bit tricky. The plant tables are along the front and south side of the porch so plants that don’t need as much light can go along the wall.

The pot of stems belongs to a friend who said he was having problems with his “fern”. He said it was from his mother’s funeral so it has sentimental value. He said he kept it watered because he knew ferns needed plenty of moisture. He asked if I could look at it and work my magic. So, I went to his home and right off the bat I knew there was an issue. I told him the biggest problem with his fern was that it was a Parlor Palm. I took it home and trimmed off the dead and repotted the “stems” even though I thought there was no hope. Never know…


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 8-26-18, #499-30.

I had the pot of Oxalis with the Amorphallus on the north side of the porch where there was no room. I am not sure why it was built that way but it made a good place for plants that needed a little more light.


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 10-5-18, #516-9.

I think the Oxalis needed more sun than on the table along the wall because they grow more upright. Not enough light and they tend to sprawl.


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 10-10-18, #519-57.

I had to start moving the potted plants inside for the winter on October 10. Instead of putting the Oxalis in the basement so they could go dormant, I put them in the front bedroom. It is always neat how the leaves fold up in the late afternoon/early evening.



Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 2-15-19, #547-1.

All of the Oxalis went dormant in the front bedroom because I withheld water so they could. The front bedrooms don’t et much heat, so it was a nice cool place for dormant bulbs. Of course they are in the dark because the rhizomes are under the soil. Strange thing is, they all went dormant as expected EXCEPT the ones in the pot with the Amorphallus (also dormant). They kept growing and flowering despite the lack of water…


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 2-15-19, #547-2.

The leaves are as HUGE as always…


Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 2-17-19, #548-3.

And they continued to flower over the winter.

Spring is right around the corner despite how it feels outside. Soon the plants will be able to return to the front porch.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.


2 comments on “Oxalis triangularis & Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae-False Shamrock, Wood Sorrel, Love Plant, etc.

  1. Julia Agostinelli says:

    I’ve been trying to locate the Oxalis Triangularis plant that has green leaves with purple underside color, pure white flowers. My plant is old and may expire. Can you help me?

    Liked by 1 person

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