Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Bermuda Buttercup, Yellow Sour Grass, Cape Sorrel, African Woodsorrel, Sour Sob, Goat's Foot
Oxalis pes-caprae

Family: Oxalidaceae
Genus: Oxalis (oks-AL-iss) (Info)
Species: pes-caprae (pes KAP-ray) (Info)

Synonym:Oxalis cernua
Synonym:Bolboxalis pes-caprae

4 members have or want this plant for trade.


6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

3-6 in. (7-15 cm)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From bulbils

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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There are a total of 19 photos.
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10 positives
1 neutral
6 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive RosinaBloom On Mar 27, 2013, RosinaBloom from Waihi
New Zealand (Zone 1) wrote:

Oxalis pes-caprae was growing in my last garden, and I loved the freshness and golden beauty of its flowers. My camera loved them too! Another one of nature's beauties.

Positive kazzgem On Aug 13, 2011, kazzgem from victoria
Australia wrote:

This is going to seem totally unbelievable to most but I seen it with my own eyes.
20 years ago my uncle had a large skin cancer on the back of his hand, it grew to about 20 cm high and center of it was hollow and black like a volcano, he had it covered with a band-aid as he was embarrassed about it ..the surgeons were going to remove it.
He bumped into an old friend who told him to collect sour grass every day and squeeze the juice down into the middle of the cancer, and uncle being uncle did not like hospitals gave it a try and with a week it started to shrink and after 6 weeks it was totally gone and to this day 20 years later it had never regrown and he has no other growths. when he returned to the surgeon he could not believe it but at the same time he never researched to me this is a miracle plant and we should be studying this further .

Positive CupieDoll On Mar 29, 2011, CupieDoll from Newhall, CA wrote:

I have been familiar with sour grass in Southern California for over 75 years. It is not a problem to control as the stalks pulI out easily. It grows near my roses & azaleas at about 1200' above sea level in the desert. I frequently nibble on the stalks for the tart flavor. Today I made a tea of the stems, leaves & flowers & enjoyed it. Now I have read here that parts of the plant are poisonous! Can anyone tell me which parts? I had no adverse effects; however, when I strained the tea into a hard plastic bowl, it discolored the bowl. Any ideas why? Thanks in advance for your information.

Positive Opoetree On Mar 28, 2010, Opoetree from Oak View, CA wrote:

Agreeably invasive -- however, usually dies back and 'relents' to whatever else is growing. We let it grow amongst our is gone -- no problem. I didn't want it in our cacti area and just pull up the sprigs. Using a bark mulch kept it from producing most of the foliage.

It tastes pretty good! Amazingly as sour as a lemon. Guess if you like color in a salad, then this could be a great addition.

Positive Singe On Aug 29, 2009, Singe from Mountain View, CA wrote:

In the Cali Bay Area here, I don't find this a problem. It's a naturalized exotic and is thus a weed and the deep-rooted tubers are hard to get rid of, but it doesn't spread very fast so I'm fine with it since at the very least it has beautiful charteuse flowers in early spring.

I've encountered horribly invasive oxalis species that spray seeds everywhere and get into everything and choke away everything else, but NOT THIS.

One of my potted palms has one of these growing in it as a volunteer and I'm happy to have it there. Beautiful flowers seasonally and it dies back every summer, unlike some oxalis.

Positive weatherguesser On Apr 1, 2009, weatherguesser from Salinas, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

My experience with this plant is largely positive. It arrived as a volunteer, but in three years in my yard it has been well-behaved and has not spread; in fact, one of its advantages is that it seems to choke out the more aggressive, weedy, invasive oxalis. The flowers are pretty and it seems to be easy to keep contained, at least in my yard.

Neutral kasianc On Feb 18, 2008, kasianc from San Diego, CA (Zone 11) wrote:

I call it neutral because there are obvious downsides, but it is not without positives. It has edible stems that have a refreshing sour taste, but too much can be poisonous. This is a prolific weed in Southern California, as described by the other negative postings. However, I have found that it was incredibly useful in breaking up the compacted and chemical-laden soil that was left by 50 years of standard-normal turf grass that I inherited when I bought my house. After a few years of letting the sourgrass grow, I found that the soil was greatly improved... and once I put in some native (coastal sage scrub for me) plants, I found it was not that difficult to keep under control. I wouldn't try to cultivate it, but if it grows, I don't think it's nearly as evil as you might think. Also, I've found you can compost the stems (not the roots or little bulbs though!)

Positive hypurlilone On Dec 12, 2007, hypurlilone from Bloomington, CA wrote:

My great grandfather used to grow them in his yard by his cactus. They never grew out of that area and didnt seem to be much of a problem for him. Upon cleaning his yard he had to pull them out. He didnt use any of the sifting methods and they never grew back. I'm wondering why if they seem to be such a nuisance for others. I actually would like to start growing them in my own yard but cant seem to find them anywhere.

Positive BAGTIC On Mar 13, 2007, BAGTIC from Thayer, MO wrote:

I lived in California 62 years and never considered this plant a problem. It spreads but slowly. Pulling occasionally controls it and normal mowing will keep it out of lawns. Nowhere as bad as bermuda grass, etc.

I moved to Missouri two years ago and I brought some with me which has been blooming in a pot on a sunporch since mid January. I wish it would grow here on the farm as it is always so cheerful in the spring.

Negative award On Feb 20, 2007, award from Santa Barbara, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

The flowers of this plant are very cheery, especially during the gray early spring. Its invasiveness is a real problem, however, so I'm constantly pulling it out of my flower beds.

Negative angelam On Dec 3, 2006, angelam from melbourne
Australia wrote:

The only positive thing I have to say about this plant is that it isn't as hard to deal with as some of the other species of oxalis. It's just very hard, not impossible. For one thing the foliage comes away very easily, and I have found that by persistently removing foliage from bulbs that can't be got at, because they are among tree roots or rocks, over time ( years) the vigour and population is reduced. Disturbing the soil as little as possible also helps. Splitting a clump up through the soil multiplies the problem horrendously. If the roots can be got out, digging down gently along the stems and levering the root and attached bulbils out is worth doing. The earlier the better in the season as they mature very fast . Keep the clump as intact as possible and don't drop any. Dispose of in a way you are certain will kill them, not your compost heap.

Positive Delmobile On Dec 3, 2006, Delmobile from Mobile, AL wrote:

Somebody gave my grandmother, now dead, a piece of this plant probably sixty or seventy years ago, in New Orleans. She gave some to my mom, and now that mom is living in an independent living facility I have charge of what our family always called "yellow bells" in my yard. Mom had them in her yard for at least forty years and they multiplied, but were never a nuisance and certainly never spread to the neighbor's yard or even to the front lawn. I had a hard time getting them established here in Mobile, AL--tried 3 times before finally getting them to do well in a raised bed. I think maybe our typically soggy winters rot their bulblets. Now that I know how invasive they can be I will be careful, but right now they are no more than cheerful clumps of bright yellow in the butterfly garden, dying back in the hot summer to return in late fall.

Negative tardigrade On Mar 19, 2006, tardigrade from Palo Alto, CA wrote:

I just spent the day pulling this plant out of my raised bed - the one I had turned over and sifted to get rid of the bulbs last fall. Saying it's successful here is an understatement - it's impossible to get rid of. The one person I know who managed that feat literally moved heaven and earth: she removed the top 2 feet of soil from her yard to get rid of the oxalis.

The worst thing about it is that it chokes off the plants I want to grow, and then when it dies back in late spring it leaves bare ground. It manages to get into my potted plants, between cracks, under pots - it doesn't seem to need light to grow!

Hate it, hate it, hate it.

Negative DawnRain On Feb 23, 2005, DawnRain from Bartow, FL wrote:

It is such a pretty plant that I was unable to persuade some folks that the plant they were buying contained a weed. They were not interested in the plant, but the weed!
This has been the major pest of every nursery I have worked at including my own. Once in the soil it is almost impossible to get rid of. Very pretty, but horribly invasive.

Negative eje On Feb 22, 2005, eje from San Francisco, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

It is kind of pretty, the flowers smell nice on sunny days in January/February, and the bees seem to like it.

However, it is an enormous nuisance in wild settings and gardens in temperate climates. The only way to get rid of it is to remove the topsoil down to a foot or two and filter it through a 1/4" mesh strainer. If any single bulb or root segment is left in the ground it will resprout. I've heard when folks have tried to remove serious infestations, the volume of oxalis bulbs nearly equals that of the remaining soil. Each bulb can produce up to 20 bulbils in a season.

Gardens and yards left untended for a season literally fill with it. Plus if you try to compost the stems or bulbs, it will take over your compost pile.

Positive RLS0812 On Oct 15, 2004, RLS0812 from Du Bois, PA wrote:

I would love to know why people call this a weed.
Grown in indirect sunlight, in a damp place.
Can be used in landscapping.
Very good to eat, leaves are used in salads, or eaten raw.

Negative jkom51 On Feb 12, 2003, jkom51 from Oakland, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Oxalis pes-caprae, a.k.a. Bermuda buttercup, soursob or sour grass, is a South African native, with its fluorescent yellow five-petaled flower. This is a terrible weed in the West that is rapidly overrunning native plants.

The flowers emerge supported by long, almost succulent, tubular stems. The trifoliate leaves, which give the impression of clover, are actually more like folded green hearts, sometimes speckled brown.

Pulling the plant up does not kill it. It is the bulbrils in the ground which send out rhizomes and readily resprout. This plant is highly invasive and should never be planted near any rural or pastoral area.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Mobile, Alabama
Phoenix, Arizona
American Canyon, California
Fair Oaks, California
Fremont, California
Glendora, California
Hayward, California
Menlo Park, California
Mountain View, California
Oak View, California
Palo Alto, California
Salinas, California
San Francisco, California
San Jose, California
Santa Barbara, California
Seaside, California
Vacaville, California
Vallejo, California
West Covina, California
Las Vegas, Nevada
Massillon, Ohio
Du Bois, Pennsylvania

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