by Jane Scully
VIOLET WOOD SORREL
Its clover-like flat leaves divided into heart-shaped leaflets will remind you of shamrock. Sorrel is indeed thought to be the wild shamrock of the ancient Irish, and a mystical emblem of the Druids before them. Quite a heritage.
This is the lovely violet-colored member of the oxalis family, which also encompasses the more frequently seen yellow and the common wood sorrel. The fragile flower is about 4 to 8 inches tall and has five flaring rose-purple petals with green sepals with orange tips. The petals are about ¾ inch wide. The flower closes at night to protect from the cold, and is said to have been called by children, "the plant that goes to sleep."
When open, the rose-purple color catches the eye in the rich woods, where it stands above its light-green leaflets that are reddish on their undersides. Note how the leaves often fold back along their center crease.
The name "sorrel" comes from the Greek word for sour, and indeed the juice has an acrid taste. You can see it from now into June, and sometimes it will flower again in the fall. Look for that rose-purple color in open woods and rocky places.
And so close to Mothers' Day, remember that it is a symbol for maternal tenderness and joy.
Photos by the author