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I have a lot of clover-like plants both in and around my large vegetable garden. My wife has asked me to help remove it, but I've read that clover is nature's ground cover and it adds nitrogen to the soil.

We had this plant in the yard since we moved here 18 years ago. And although we always referred to it as "clover," that was an assumption. Before we move forward, I want to confirm that this is clover, and maybe even learn what type.

Below is a picture of both a patch of the plant in our garden as well as a picture of plants that have been removed. Notice that the plants on the right side of this second image seem to have several nodes, about the size of a pea, on its root system. In comparison, the one plant on the left is also common, and it has a single "bulb" as the basis of its root.

Here are my questions. 1) Is this clover. 2) Are these two different types. 3) Are these beneficial to the garden.

Note that I live just east of Houston, Texas. The clover has foliage only during the cooler months. During the hot summers that foliage dies off, but it returns when temperatures drop.

A patch of this plant (left) along with some extracted plants showing their root systems (right)

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This is not clover (of the genus Trifolium (=three-leafed)), but Oxalis, or wood-sorrel (not to be confused with regular sorrel). For a definite id, we’d need more details, but that’s probably not essential for your question.

The nodules are the storage organs, from where the little plants regrow after a dormant period, in your case, after the summer heat. These are one way ornamental cultivars get shipped, not unlike tulip bulbs.

It doesn’t have the nitrogen-binding qualities of clover, which some gardeners appreciate. It’s up to you whether you’re treating it as a weed or keep (some of) it. It can be beneficial, providing nectar for insects and shading the ground, although the latter depends a bit on the specific kind and environment, probably not so much in your case.

If you want to contain or eliminate it, you want to make sure that you mow it before it goes to seed, as they can spread easily. For removal you need to get the nodules out, because from there regrowth happens. Don’t worry if you miss a few (you probably will), just be persistent.

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  • I would definitely recommend getting as many bulbs out as possible if you would like to eliminate this Oxalis bed. I've grown them before, and they are pretty hardy!
    – OllieVet
    Nov 16, 2023 at 16:11
  • I agree that they are hardy. We previously had some, now we have a lot. Sounds like digging them up is the best approach. Nov 17, 2023 at 16:12

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