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 versicolor L.

Half-hardy clump-forming bulbous perennial with three narrow leaflets and a profusion of solitary, funnel-shaped white flowers, crimson-margined on the reverse and crimson-striped in the bud, from late summer to winter.  To 8cm, spreading.  [RHSE].  

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘The Oxalis versicolor is considered as one of the most beautiful of the many species cultivated in gardens; and, though well known to, and described by several of the older Botanists, has graced our collections but a few years, being introduced to the Royal Garden at Kew, from the Cape (where, as well as in Ethiopia, it grows spontaneously) by Mr. Masson, in the Year 1774.

Many of this genus flower early in the spring, the season in which this species also puts forth its blossoms, but by dexterous management it may be made to flower during most of the year; and this is effected by placing the pea-like tubera or knobs which the root sends forth, and by which the plant is propagated, in pots filled with loam and bog-earth at stated distant periods.

Like most of the Cape plants, it is well adapted to the greenhouse, and succeeds best when placed on a front shelf of the house, where it can have plenty of light and air; some keep it in the stove, but there the plant is drawn up, and the flowers lose a part of their brilliancy: In no situation do they ever expand but when the sun shines on them; this is the less to be regretted, as they are most beautiful when closed.’  [BM t.155/1791]. 

‘This old greenhouse plant was introduced into this country many years ago, and it merits a place in every one.  It forms a spreading, branching, somewhat bushy plant if properly tied up; or if left loose will hang over the side of the pot.’  [FC p.220/1853].  The plant as figured in Flore des Serres is much more brightly coloured than the plant generally grown today, the edges of the petals crimson at the back and pink inside, the colour still visible when open.  [FS f.834/1853].  

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [B.381/1843].


Published Jan 28, 2010 - 05:14 PM | Last updated Jan 28, 2010 - 05:21 PM

Figured are the trifoliate leaves and white flowers showing red barber's pole stripes.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.155, 1791.

Oxalis versicolor L. | BM t.155/1791 | RBGS

Family Oxalidaceae
Region of origin

South Africa

  • Oxalis tenuifolia E.Mey.
Common Name

Barber?s pole

Name in the Camden Park Record

Oxalis versicolor 

Confidence level high