Oxalis drummondii and Quail

The plants near the creek really suffered this year. Spring brought a record flood; summer was absolutely dry. We lost a lot of diversity with only the toughest & most invasive plants managing to survive. Or so I thought until I spotted this treasure blooming along the shrub edge.

Oxalis drummondii
Oxalis drummondii

Drummond’s wood-sorrel is native to our area of Texas. It can also be found in New Mexico and Arizona. The patch I found was growing in very loose but moist sand in part shade. Companions were sedges, wild onion and Chrysogonum virginianum.

Here is another view of the delicate flower:

Oxalis drummondii
Oxalis drummondii

The leaves look like a bit like boomerangs.

Oxalis drummondii leaves
Oxalis drummondii leaves

Drummond’s wood-sorrel is edible. The leaves and flowers can be tossed into salads but the taste is quite tart so use sparingly. Not recommended for anyone suffering from gout.

This oxalis is supposed to be a food source for quail — or so the internet tells me. I’ve never actually seen quail in the wild here. Wouldn’t that be a nice surprise! Quail like to eat dewberries, wild grapes, ragweed seeds, grass seed, acorns and lots of arthropods. As I learned more about what quail like I realized the area near our creek is nearly a perfect habitat for them. We even have clumps of Eastern gamagrass growing here and there to provide cover and safe nesting spaces. No hunting would be permitted since the area is bordered by houses. They could completely avoid contact with pesticides and herbicides.

I started to think about the idea of purposefully introducing quail the way we purposefully introduce plants and trees.

Of course everything started getting murky when I looked into the details. The quail that should live here have been extirpated and are listed on an endangered species list. Northern Bobwhite quail eggs are available though. People rear them like chickens so the eggs are cheap and easy to find.

But the more I looked the less I liked the idea. The eggs are cheap and easy to find because they are factory products. Yet, quail are of course sentient beings. If you have any doubt, here’s a sweet video of a baby quail:

Quail, like chickens, speak to their mothers even when they are still in the egg. They tell her if they are feeling too cold or warm. Sometimes, they call out just to hear her voice. And she speaks to them. Who knows what she says but I am sure it is comforting to the chicks just to hear her voice and to know that someone in the world is watching out for them.

I don’t know if I could feel good about buying a batch of orphaned eggs. How would the little birds learn to forage or hide from predators? Would bonding with each other be good enough to maintain their quail ways? Perhaps worse of all … might they accidentally learn to be too trusting of humans?

So maybe I’ll scratch the idea of purposefully introducing quail. If quail want to live in our little quail paradise they are just going to have to find it for themselves.

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27 thoughts on “Oxalis drummondii and Quail

  1. I have lots of the yellow sorrel and gently disagree with those who find it intrusive. It is easy enough to pull out (though never a permanent removal solution) and does not seem to over-compete for resources. I let it run freely as it attracts/supports bees with every bloom cycle. When I was a child we used to pull pink oaxalis up and suck on the ends of plucked blossoms for that little pop of tartness. At that time I’d never seen the yellow – only the pink. We pretended they were clover and always looked for a Four Leaf lucky plant.

    As to quail – I wonder if they’d fare well in proximity to neighborhood cats and dogs. Is the creek area isolated enough for quail to be offered good protection from pets, raccoons and other local predators?

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    1. Oh. Now I have a lovely image in my mind of little girls eating flowers. ty for that. haha. I can just imagine the faces made. There are predators here to be sure. People are good about keeping their dogs on leads but there are always cats. And raccoons. And others. We do have coveys of different kinds of doves living there and they seem to be stable despite some losses. I think my husband may have hit on an important limiting factor that could explain their absence. He grew up in an area where they were prevalent and says they are twitchy and intolerant of human presence — startling very easily. City life would probably be filled with far too much anxiety for them.

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  2. Pretty little flower – love the leaves.
    My son lives in CA and they still have quail, which are cute but very shy. I wonder if the TX Dept. of Wildlife would fund a reintroduction? Undoubtedly, it is a big production that would take years and miles of red tape.
    Turkeys were introduced to MA from wild flocks in NY and VA back in the 70s. It was very successful and we have huge flocks now.

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    1. Wild turkeys are absolutely beautiful birds! That would be quite a thing to see. Good for them for re-introducing the birds though the cynic in me assumes they are there for people to hunt. Reintroducing quail wouldn’t cost much. A carton of their eggs compares to a carton of eggs at the grocery store. I think their absence tells a story though. People who garden foir wildlife know about the big three needs: provide food, water and safe refuge. But I suppose some wild things need space and privacy just as much.

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      1. There are far fewer hunters these days, at least in these parts. Young folks aren’t interested in it. It used to be a rite of manhood, but no longer.
        There are two seasons for turkey, spring for toms and fall for both, but their numbers only are growing. Hens flock together to raise young and being intelligent birds, they are very good at it.

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        1. I prefer too think the best of people — that maybe the birds have been re-introduced because it was the right thing to do and not because it brings a profit to the state. It is great news to hear their numbers are increasing.
          Your comment made me think that whoever thought of the insult ‘bird brain’ sure got it wrong. As you say, they really are intelligent.Their continued survival seems pretty clear evidence.

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          1. Wild birds are really clever! I think bird brain came from chickens, not too bright (they are domesticated, after all), but they sure are sweet. I love watching chickens. They truly don’t have a care in the world. Little Zen masters… except when they decide to execute the pecking order… they’re not so Zen, then! ;-)

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    1. Thx, Christina., I am all about trivia. haha I learned that in a parenting class and it really made me think about how necessary it is for creatures to feel some safety and love.

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    1. I think they are pretty, too. Wishing you luck for their survival. They are tough so it seems likely. I bought a bunch of bulbs for the white ones this fall. Hopefully the squirrels have left some to grow for next year. heh

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    1. When I first moved here I was warned against the yellow flowered ones. One gardener I knew said it was a real menace. So when I first saw it growing I was pretty concerned. But I have come to really enjoy it, too. I think it is a really pretty plant and I welcome it. So far I can’t see any downsides to it. It comes in thick in the spring and then disappears over the summer.

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  3. I agree with Lauren–love the oxalis! Such a sweet and delicate, yet tough plant. It’s been a tough year, here in Texas, land of the tough. And, a very odd year, though I expect we’d better get used to that.

    And you were wrong about the video. The cuteness factor was AT LEAST 1.5 billion. Wonderful to read you again.

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    1. Thx, Tina. I kind of got busy. I genuinely like the look of oxalis — even the dreaded yellow variety. That little video was heart-breakingly cute. I could not resist sharing it. I admire the filmmaker’s empathy very much.

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  4. I love the native oxalis. I know many think it a weed but I think it is pretty. This year was hard on many plants. In the last 12 months we have had 80 inches and there was that flash drought this summer. My shade/wet gardens are doing well but we lost all the Blue Chip buddleia. One wonders what winter will bring!

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    1. When I first moved here gardeners were freely telling me to rip out many of the plants that I have come to love. Oxalis, ponyfoot, sedges …. one person’s weed is another person’s treasure. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. It -has- been a really really hard year. I still have some skullcap but just barely and that is one tough plant. My mistflower is absolutely gone. Not just from the drought but we had a spider mite explosion. I don’t know what the experts are saying about winter but my best guess is that it will be El Niño cold and wet. Heh, maybe I should ask the persimmons for their prediction again!

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