It’s not clover; it’s yellow wood sorrel

by Donna Tatting

Ask anybody with a lawn or garden and they will probably tell you that this year’s weeds are producing a bumper crop.   It’s a never-ending task made even harder by my being somewhat physically limited due to a recent surgery.  I’m thankful for the ones that just pop out easily when pulled and curse the ones that seem determined to stay put.   Now, luckily, part of my garden was treated early in the season with Preen, so that part is more manageable, but I never got to the rest and it’s a real mess out there.

One weed that I get every year, but this year is literally out of control, is Yellow wood sorrel. Yellow wood sorrel, Oxalis stricta, is a short-lived perennial weed that acts like an annual in Minnesota. Its weak stems, which grow four to 18 inches in length, branch near the ground. Its small, heart-shaped leaves grow in clusters of three, giving a clover-like appearance.  Small, bright yellow flowers each have five petals; they usually appear in early summer and bloom throughout the season. Each flower produces a five-sided seedpod which bursts when ripe, spraying seeds. With such an effective seed dispersal mechanism, it’s no wonder that yellow wood sorrel spreads easily. It is common in pastures and waste places as well as lawns and gardens.

One of the best ways to control wood sorrel in your lawn is to make sure you have a healthy and thick turf.  It loves to populate and take over any bare spots in the lawn.  Spot spraying with a product that targets weeds like wood sorrel is another option.  Don’t use a herbicide like Round Up on the lawn because that will kill the grass too.  There are some pre-emergent herbicides, like the ones used for crabgrass control, that can help and are applied in mid-spring but again, make sure the label mentions yellow wood sorrel.  Pulling is another option, and, thankfully, this is one weed that pulls out very easily.

In your flower and veggie gardens, mulch garden beds with a two-to-three inch layer of organic mulch to prevent yellow wood sorrel from making a home amongst your perennials or vegetables.

For the most part, the yellow wood sorrel you see will be under six inches tall, but I’ve had plenty of them that stay nice and hidden and by the time I find them to pull them out, they’re a foot high.  And believe me, you can pull this weed all day long and think you’ve got it all, but there’s always more lurking there that you’ve missed.

On a positive note, all parts of yellow wood sorrel are edible, and have a bright, tangy flavor. The leaves and blossoms can be added to salad as a decorative touch, and a lemony drink can be made from the foliage.

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