Devon on March 1st, 2012

I don’t really know of anyone that would say ground cover is their favorite kind of plant — and I am no different. But, I do have a favorite ground cover: clovers. In honor of March and St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would write about the Oxalis family. First, there are multiple plant families that have three leafs, but Oxalis is what I think of. The iconic green three leafed plant is a shamrock, which is a three-leafed old white clover. It is known as a symbol of Ireland, with St. Patrick having used it as a metaphor for the Christian Trinity. My personal favorits are:

1) Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) A perennial herb common throughout most of Europe and parts of Asia. Oxalis acetosella, commonly known as wood sorrel, grows in clonal stands typical of self-pollinating plants. The leaves of wood sorrel are clover-like, and for that reason it is sometimes referred to as a shamrock (though shamrocks also often refer to true clovers, Trifolium spp.) and given as a gift on St. Patrick’s Day. Wood sorrel, like spinach and broccoli, contains oxalic acid, a common ingredient in cleaning products and rustproofing treatments.

2) Purple Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis). Yes, this is edible — and looks great as a garnish on pasta salads. This wood-sorrel is typically grown as a houseplant but can be grown outside in zones 8a-11, preferably in light shade. It is endemic to Brazil.

3) Bronze Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens Atropurpureum). This creeping perennial has deeply divided, reddish-bronze leaves edged in green. White pom-pom flowers adorn the top in summer. It will do tremendously well draping over a retaining wall, filling gaps in flagstones patios, and edging a pond or surrounding ferns and hostas in a shade garden. Also terrific in a container over top of flower bulbs. Needs adequate light or it will stretch. This plant will be more red in sun, more green in shade.

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