Oxalidaceae Plant Family

About the Oxalidaceae or Oxalidaceae Family

The Oxalidaceae family is a group of flowering plants that are distributed worldwide, with the highest diversity found in South America. The family comprises around 900 species and is known for its distinctive clover- leaves and showy flowers. Commonly referred to as the wood sorrel family, Oxalidaceae includes many popular ornamental plants such as Oxalis triangularis and has several medicinal uses in different cultures.

Taxonomy and Classification

The Oxalidaceae family is classified under the order Oxalidales, which includes six families of flowering plants. Within the family, there are only two genera: Oxalis and Biophytum. The genus Oxalis comprises the majority of the species, with over 800 members, while Biophytum has only around 70 species. There are no subfamilies or major groups within the Oxalidaceae family. The family is closely related to the Connaraceae family and shares several characteristics with them, including inflorescences that bear both male and female flowers.

Morphology and Characteristics

Plants within the Oxalidaceae family are known for their distinctive clover- leaves, which can have one to many leaflets. The leaves fold up at night and open again during the day, a phenomenon called nyctinasty. The flowers of Oxalidaceae are usually showy and come in a variety of colors such as pink, yellow, or white. They have five petals and typically have ten stamens. Some species produce cleistogamous flowers that self- without opening. Members of this family also exhibit adaptations such as succulence and the presence of essential oils.

Distribution and Habitat

The Oxalidaceae family is distributed worldwide, with the highest diversity found in South America. The majority of species are found in tropical regions, particularly in the Andes Mountains. However, members of this family can be found in a wide range of habitats, from rainforests to deserts. Some species are also found in temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Wood sorrels (Oxalis species) are commonly found as weeds or ornamental plants in gardens around the world.

Economic and Ecological Importance

The Oxalidaceae family has both economic and ecological importance. Several species within the family are cultivated as ornamental plants for their showy flowers and clover- leaves. Some of the most popular species include Oxalis triangularis, Oxalis regnellii, and Oxalis tetraphylla. Some members of this family are also used for medicinal purposes in different cultures. For example, some traditional medicines use extracts from Oxalis tuberosa to treat stomach ailments.

Ecologically, the Oxalidaceae family plays an important role in ecosystems. The plants provide food sources for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Additionally, some species have been found to be effective at removing heavy metals from contaminated soil, making them useful in phytoremediation efforts. Overall, the family contributes to the biodiversity of plant life globally.

Notable Species

There are several notable species within the Oxalidaceae family:

  • Oxalis triangularis: A popular ornamental plant known for its pink or purple triangular- leaves that fold up at night and open during the day. It is native to Brazil and can be grown as a houseplant.
  • Oxalis tuberosa: Also known as oca, this species produces edible tubers that are consumed in South America. The plant is high in vitamin C and is an important crop in the Andean region.
  • Biophytum sensitivum: Also called the "little tree plant," it is a small plant native to Asia and Africa that produces tiny yellow flowers and sensitive leaves that curl up when touched. It is often grown as a curiosity plant.
  • Oxalis pes- Commonly known as Bermuda buttercup or sourgrass, it has bright yellow flowers and is a common weed in gardens and lawns worldwide. It is native to South Africa but has naturalized in many other regions.
  • Oxalis stricta: A widely distributed plant species commonly known as common yellow oxalis. It is a weed that is found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. It has clover- leaves and yellow flowers.

These species have various cultural, economic, and ecological significance. For example, some are cultivated as ornamentals, while others are used for medicinal purposes or as food crops. Some invasive species such as Oxalis pes- can also cause problems for gardeners and farmers.