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Violet Wood Sorrel

Violet Wood Sorrel
Photo Information
Copyright: John Denk (jpdenk) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 307 W: 3 N: 74] (333)
Genre: Plants
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2010-05-15
Categories: Flowers
Camera: Nikon D90, 60mm f/2.8D AF Micro Nikkor
Exposure: f/16, 1/15 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
Theme(s): Plants of the Chicago region [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2010-05-29 10:58
Viewed: 4003
Points: 4
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
This little flower is one that I haven't seen very often around here. This is Violet Wood Sorrel, Oxalis violacea. It's usually found in higher-quality prairie remnants around here, but these were growing in open woods near a forest preserve parking lot where they get mid-day sun.

Other locally occurring species in this genus are somewhat weedy. They have the typical Oxalis leaves, which closely resemble a typical clover leaf with 3 parts (see my workshop to see the leaves). The more common species around here have yellow flowers.

I like this shot because it shows 4 flower buds at different stages of development. I put the camera on a tripod and used mirror lock-up to avoid blurring due to mirror slap.

Kingdom-Plantae Plants
Subkingdom-Tracheobionta Vascular plants
Superdivision-Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division-Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class-Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
Family-Oxalidaceae Wood-Sorrel family
Genus-Oxalis L. Wood Sorrel
Species-Oxalis violacea L.

Here's some information about it from the Illinois Wildflowers site:

Description: This native perennial plant is up to 6" tall. It consists of several trifoliate basal leaves on long stalks that emerge directly from the ground. Among [Close-Up of Flower] these leaves, appear floppy umbels of flowers on slightly taller stalks. The trifoliate leaves are about 1" across and open up during the day. Each leaf consists of three obcordate leaflets with smooth margins, which may turn purplish in response to cold weather or strong sunlight; otherwise, they tend to be greyish green. Each flower is bell-shaped and a little less than " across. The 5 petals are light purple or violet, but become greenish white with fine lines converging toward the throat of the flower. These petals often recurve outward and downward when fully open, displaying the bright yellow anthers. Each flower is subtended by 5 green sepals that are lanceolate and have orange tips. The entire plant is hairless, or nearly so. The blooming period occurs during late spring and lasts about a month. Rarely, Violet Wood Sorrel may bloom again in the fall. There is no floral scent. Eventually, slender pointed seed capsules develop that split into 5 sections, sometimes ejecting the light brown seeds several inches. The root system consists of small bulblets with fibrous roots, which can slowly multiply.

Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, and mesic to dry conditions. The soil can be rocky or loamy. Disease is not normally a problem as long as the site is well-drained. This is an easy plant to grow as long as it is not overpowered by taller vegetation. It fixes nitrogen in the soil by means of endomycorrhizal bacteria.

Range & Habitat: Violet Wood Sorrel occurs in every county of Illinois and is fairly common, although it is often overlooked. Habitats include mesic to dry black soil prairies, open upland forests, savannas, bluffs, limestone glades, and abandoned fields. It responds positively to wildfires as this clears away the dead vegetation that can smother this plant during the spring.

Faunal Associations: Primarily small long-tongued and short-tongued bees visit the flowers for nectar or pollen. This includes Little Carpenter bees, Nomadine Cuckoo bees, Mason bees, Andrenine bees, Green Metallic bees, and other Halictine bees. The bee Andrena violae is an oligolege of this plant and violets that bloom during the spring. Less commonly, the flowers may be visited by small butterflies or skippers. Syrphid flies also visit the flowers, but they feed on the pollen and are non-pollinating. The seeds are eaten to a limited extent by several upland gamebirds and songbirds, including the Bobwhite, Mourning Dove, Horned Lark, Field Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, and Slate-Colored Junco. The Cottontail Rabbit eats this plant occasionally, even though it is mildly toxic because of the presence of oxalic acid in the leaves.

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  • tuslaw Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2754 W: 282 N: 4931] (19883)
  • [2010-05-29 17:42]

Hello Neighbor,
I love to view these little beauties whenever I run across them in the field. The last time I saw some was when I was in New york last year.
What I really like about your image is that it shows them in the three stages of growth. I don't believe I have ever seen them as they were just about to open, as your photo clearly shows. Love the soft colors and super detail you managed to capture. I have never tried mirror lock-up, but I think I will have to give it a whirl in the future. Great work!!

Hi again John,

A good, sharp macro of these tiny and delicate flowers.
Good positioning in the frame, excellent timing and good light management MF!
TFS and cheers,


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