Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Oxalis elegans H.B. & K.

Frost-tender bulbous perennial with 3 roundish leaflets, green above purplish beneath and flowering stems bearing 2-6 purple flowers with a deeper coloured throat.  [RHSD].  

Horticultural & Botanical History

A variable species, its flowers described as violet-coloured [Don] and purple [JD].  ‘Its leaflets are firm, fleshy, dark, rich green, stained with purple on the under-side. A 9 inch stalk bears a truss of 5-6 deep rose-coloured flowers, with a rich dark-purple eye.  Planted in the open border, and fed abundantly with air and dew, it has become a gem of the purest water.’  [The Gardeners Chronicle, 1849].  It was heavily advertised in this journal at this time.

‘It is difficult to say which of the 2 varieties is the best.  The flowers of variety alpha are the largest, but the palest coloured: variety beta has the smaller but deepest coloured blossom.  Whether the purple underside of the leaf is peculiar to alpha or occasionally common to both I cannot say.  [The leaves are] generally purple beneath in alpha , pale green beneath in beta.  [The scapes are] terminated by an umbel of from 6-9 or 10 handsome showy flowers.  [The] entire corolla is of a purple colour, more or less deep, and varying a little in size: in the centre is an intensely dark purple eye.’  [BM t.4490/1850]. 

‘This beautiful flowering species, [originally discovered by Humboldt on the Andes of Loxa, in Columbia, at nearly 7000 feet] which has usually been grown in the greenhouse, flourishes and blooms profusely in the open border.  It deserves a place in every greenhouse or flower garden.’  [FC p.242/1849, FC p.25/1850].  Introduced to Britain in 1846, sent from Peru to Veitch and Sons, Exeter, by Thomas Lobb.  [PD].

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1850 and 1857 catalogues [B.371/1850].  Obtained from Veitch’s Nursery, brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in 1849.  Believed by Macarthur to be a new introduction.  [ML A1980-3].


Published Jan 28, 2010 - 03:02 PM | Last updated Jan 28, 2010 - 03:09 PM

Shown are leaves with 3 leaflets, purple beneath, purple flowers with a deeper centre. Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.4490, 1850.

Oxalis elegans H.B. & K. | BM t.4490/1850 | RBGS

Family Oxalidaceae
Region of origin


Common Name
Name in the Camden Park Record

Oxalis elegans 

Confidence level high