Oxalis – how to get rid of this weed

oxalisOxalis is one of the most common weeds in Cyprus which forms a yellow blanket in your garden which is extremely difficult to remove permanently. Don’t bother using weed-killer as, not only will the effects be short lived but the closeness of Oxalis to your plants will probably make the process unworkable. I was told that the best way to kill this plant was to use gloves soaked in weed-killer and to apply the chemical this way. It did not take long to realise that this was a painstakingly temporary measure. Not only is this process ineffective but the use of weed-killers is in many cases environmentally unfriendly with the added problem that in north Cyprus, because of their involvement in dog poisoning, there are many who want their availability severely restricted.

The common name of the plant in many countries is Wood Sorrel and despite it being a weed it does have its uses. The leaves are edible, having a tangy taste of lemons. A drink can be made by infusing the leaves in hot water for about 10 minutes then, after cooling, it is sweetened before drinking. The plant is rich in vitamin C but is only safe in low doses as it contains the mildly poisonous oxalic acid, also present in spinach, which can inhibit calcium absorption by the body. Oxalis is a popular wild food in India, eaten around Christmas, and where the plant is known as chichoda bhaji, which means “earth-almond greens.”

oxalis-2So how do you get rid of it permanently? Unfortunately there is only one sure fire way, practised by labour intense organic farmers. Oxalis forms what are known as bulbils at the base of the plant, and any cultivation of the soil breaks up the clusters of these bulbils and spreads them. Weeding only removes the stem and leaves, leaving the bulbils to form a new yellow carpet to replace the old. The most effective control method is extremely careful hand weeding, involving gently digging up each plant with minimum disturbance and picking every bulbil.  Oh well, perhaps you’d prefer to eat them instead.

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