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Eliminating wood sorrel requires more than hand-pulling

Hand-pulling won't remove wood sorrel

Q: I had a bumper crop of clover in my St. Augustine grass this year. Usually, I just ignore it, but this year, it got so tall and thick I hand-pulled most of it because I have dogs and don't want to use a weed killer. Is there any other way I can get rid of the clover? Blanche Tuxhorn

A: You probably don't have clover. You've got a clover look-alike, most likely wood sorrel, Oxalis stricta. There are many species of Oxalis, some with large cloverlike leaves with purple flowers seen mostly through winter to much smaller species with yellow flowers and small cloverlike leaves, from green to red depending on water, that can get a stronghold in your not so healthy lawn. Hand pulling is futile because the plants travel by rhizomes (connective runners from plant to plant) and you simply can't pull them all.

They also reproduce by seed with a fruit that looks like a miniature okra about a half-inch long containing about 50 seeds. As the green pods ripen and turn brown they pop open and expel their seeds up to 10 feet away (you may notice this while hand pulling), so between the rhizomes and the seeds, you can't win by handpulling.

Weeds in a lawn usually mean something has gone wrong with the lawn culture and care; lack of water, poor nutrition, mowing too close (St. Augustine should be mowed from 3 1/2 to 4 inches in height), chinch bug damage, etc.

Unfortunately a chemical herbicide will be necessary to gain control of the Oxalis. Speedzone for St. Augustine works quite well and won't hurt your dogs, if applied according to label directions, and then investigate what is lacking in your lawn care program, or forget the weeds and mow it all the same height if you're not looking for Lawn of the Month.

Naming that lily is actually fairly complicated

Q: I purchased these lilies last year at the Green Thumb Festival. They are blooming nicely, smell great and even have spread where I have three smaller plants around it. There are about six blooms/buds on the one stem.

What are these lilies called? Can I cut the stem now, put in water and it will continue blooming? Or to keep it alive and blooming just leave it alone? Deborah L. Weintraub, Palm Harbor

A: The lily in your photos is a Crinum, most likely, Crinum x powellii, commonly called Cape lily. There has been much hybridization within the Crinum genus which makes positive identification hard and through pictures even more difficult.

Crinum x powellii is a hybrid (an x denotes cross or hybrid in scientific naming) with Crinum bulbispermum and Crinum moorei as its parents, a cross made back in the 19th century by some English plant breeders with the resulting flowers ranging in color from pink to pure white.

One of its cousins is Crinum americanum, swamp lily or string lily native to wet areas all over Florida. It has long 4-foot leaves with a profusion of white flowers atop a 4- to 5-foot stock seen frequently in "Florida Friendly Landscapes" and also as a highlight in planted highway medians.

Dig some of your Cape lily's offspring and give to fellow gardeners, a tradition that has been passed down through generations for over 100 years.

Many thanks to my colleague Andy Wilson at the Pinellas County Extension Service for helping with your plant's botanical pedigree.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. Email him at or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned.

Eliminating wood sorrel requires more than hand-pulling 05/19/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 19, 2012 4:30am]
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