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Least Yellow Sorrel

Oxalis exilis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Oxalidaceae (Wood Sorrel)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, roadsides, rocky places, walls, wasteland, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
Similar in appearance to Spreading Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) but the flowers are always solitary.
The fruit is a capsule.
Similar in appearance to Spreading Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) but smaller and with thread-like stems. The trifoliate leaves are always green. Spreading Yellow Sorrel often has leaves which are coloured purple. The leaflets are heart-shaped. In the British Isles, Least Yellow Sorrel is most commonly found in the east and south of England. Annual or perennial.
Other Names:
Shady Woodsorrel, Slender Yellow Woodsorrel, Slimleaf Yellow Sorrel.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Oxalis exilis, also known as the "slimleaf yellow sorrel" or "slender yellow woodsorrel," is a perennial herb that is native to the southeastern United States. It has small yellow flowers and clover-like leaves. The plant can often be found growing in woodlands, along roadsides, and in other disturbed areas. It is considered an invasive species in some regions.


Oxalis exilis, commonly known as Least Yellow Sorrel, is a delicate flowering plant that belongs to the Oxalidaceae family. This plant is native to the southeastern region of the United States and can be found growing in various habitats, including fields, meadows, forests, and disturbed areas. The Least Yellow Sorrel is a popular ornamental plant, and its strikingly beautiful yellow flowers make it a favorite among gardeners.

Physical Characteristics

The Least Yellow Sorrel is a small, low-growing herbaceous plant that typically reaches a height of 4 to 8 inches. The stems are thin and wiry, and the leaves are trifoliate, meaning they have three leaflets. The leaflets are typically obcordate, which means they are shaped like a heart with a notch at the top, and they are usually about half an inch long. The leaves are a bright green color, and they are often tinged with purple or red.

The flowers of the Least Yellow Sorrel are small, about a quarter of an inch wide, and they are borne on long stalks that rise above the leaves. The flowers are typically a bright, lemony yellow color, and they have five petals that are arranged in a star shape. The flowers bloom in the spring and summer, and they are often accompanied by small, elongated seed pods.

Cultivation and Care

The Least Yellow Sorrel is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of conditions, although it prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. It thrives in full sun to partial shade, and it is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, making it suitable for cultivation in most areas of the United States.

If you want to grow the Least Yellow Sorrel in your garden, start by preparing a planting site with well-draining soil. Sow the seeds in the spring or fall, covering them lightly with soil. Keep the soil moist, but not overly wet, and the seeds should germinate within a few weeks.

Once the plants are established, they require little care. Water the plants during dry spells, and remove any weeds that may be competing for resources. The Least Yellow Sorrel is not generally prone to disease or pest problems, but if you notice any issues, you can treat them with an organic insecticide or fungicide.


The Least Yellow Sorrel has a few practical uses, although it is primarily grown as an ornamental plant. The leaves of the plant are edible and have a slightly sour taste, which is why it is sometimes used as a flavoring in salads or other dishes. The plant has also been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including stomach pain, fever, and coughs.

The Least Yellow Sorrel is a beautiful and hardy plant that is easy to grow and care for. Its bright yellow flowers and delicate foliage make it an attractive addition to any garden, and its edible leaves add a unique sour flavor to salads and other dishes. If you are looking for a low-maintenance plant that will add a pop of color to your garden, the Least Yellow Sorrel is an excellent choice.

More Information about Least Yellow Sorrel

While the Least Yellow Sorrel is primarily grown as an ornamental plant, it has also been used in various ways by different cultures. For example, the Cherokee people used a tea made from the leaves of the plant to treat fever and stomach ailments, while the Iroquois used it as a treatment for poison ivy and as a poultice for skin sores.

In addition, the Least Yellow Sorrel has been studied for its potential medicinal properties. One study found that an extract of the plant had significant antioxidant activity, which could have implications for treating a variety of diseases. Other studies have found that the plant contains compounds that have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, suggesting that it could be useful in treating infections and reducing inflammation.

It is worth noting, however, that more research is needed to fully understand the potential health benefits of the Least Yellow Sorrel. As with any medicinal plant, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using it as a treatment.

In terms of environmental impact, the Least Yellow Sorrel is generally considered to be a low-risk species. It is not considered invasive in most areas of the United States, although it can spread quickly in disturbed areas or where the soil has been disturbed. It is also not known to be toxic to humans or animals.

The Least Yellow Sorrel is a beautiful and versatile plant that has a variety of uses. Whether you are looking for an attractive addition to your garden, an edible herb to flavor your salads, or a potential source of medicinal compounds, the Least Yellow Sorrel is a plant that is well worth considering. With its bright yellow flowers and delicate foliage, it is sure to be a conversation starter and a source of joy for years to come.

One interesting feature of the Least Yellow Sorrel is its ability to close its leaves in response to changes in light intensity. This phenomenon, known as nyctinasty, is thought to be a protective mechanism to help the plant conserve moisture and protect its leaves from damage during periods of high light intensity. When the light levels drop, the leaves will gradually reopen, allowing the plant to resume photosynthesis.

The Least Yellow Sorrel also has an interesting relationship with pollinators. While the plant is primarily self-pollinating, it is also visited by a variety of insects, including bees and butterflies, which are attracted to its bright yellow flowers. The nectar of the flowers is an important food source for these pollinators, and the plant is thought to play an important role in supporting local ecosystems.

In addition to its ornamental and medicinal uses, the Least Yellow Sorrel has also been used in traditional crafts. The Cherokee people, for example, used the plant to dye baskets and other items a yellow color, while the Seminole people used it to dye cloth for traditional clothing.

Overall, the Least Yellow Sorrel is a fascinating and versatile plant that has a lot to offer. Whether you are interested in its ornamental beauty, its potential medicinal properties, or its ecological significance, it is a plant that is well worth exploring further. With its delicate flowers and charming foliage, it is sure to capture your heart and inspire you with its many wonders.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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