Oxalis corniculata has become an almost ubiquitous weed of plant pots and borders. Its explosive capsules and sticky seeds let it jump, like a vegetable flea, from pot to pot. This phenomena is not unique to Britain and Ireland. All across Europe O. corniculata can be found in similar situations.
Linnaeus first described the species from Europe, but it is not clear if it is native here. Close relatives exist in North America, Asia and Australasia. It has an extremely plastic phenotype depending on habitat. Characters such as hairiness, leaf size and habit all overlap between species in this group, even though these species do not hybridise readily. It is for this reason my colleagues and I at the Botanic Garden Meise (Belgium) are trying a molecular genetic approach to understanding the O. corniculata group. We are hoping to be able to unravel the phylogeny of these taxa and more precisely define the taxon boundaries. Perhaps we will even get indications of its geographic origins.
We are looking for specimens (fresh or rapidly dried) of plants in the O. corniculata group from as many places as possible. In addition to O. corniculata the corniculata group includes O. corniculata var. atropurpurea, O. dillenii, O. exilis and O. stricta. It doesn't matter if you can’t identify it with certainty, but it would help us match molecular and physical traits if you are able to provide a specimen with fruits and flowers. Nevertheless, even non-fruiting material will help.
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This work by Quentin Groom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.