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Oxios secundum Plinium planta solum trina folia habens.


folis trina A | solis trina C | foliũ t’na j | sola t’na f | solũ tria (t̃na p) ep | solum tenera B | see Commentary below. N.b. t’na can be expanded as terna or trina.

folia habens | h. f. AC


Oxios according to Pliny is a plant that has only three leaves each.


This entry is a quote from Pliny, 27, 89, 12, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VII.458). The original text simply reads: Oxys folia terna habet – "oxys has three leaves each".

It seems that Pliny’s folia terna was misread as *folium terna > solum terna and then folia had to be added.

Greek ὀξύς /oxýs/ is an adjective meaning when referring to taste: "sharp, pungent, acid". As a plant name oxys is only attested in Pliny. Simon's form Oxios occurs in all witnesses. It is either the result of an early copying error or it is a non-attested genitival form, cf. Lewis & Short (1879) oxys,yos as opposed to the attested ὀξέος /oxéos/. A possible explanation is that the Latin accentuation would be *óxeos, which can also be pronounced /óxios/ in late Latin.

Pliny uses the same name oxys once more when describing a totally different plant, a marine rush (21, 69, 112, ed. Rackham, 1938-63: VI.242) and of one kind he says: marem et oxyn Graeci vocant – "the Greeks call {this kind} male rush or oxys". oxyn here transcribes the Greek accusative ὀξύν /oxýn/ depending on vocant.

Botanical identification:

See André (1985: 184), s.v., who identifies it with Oxalis acetosella L. "wood sorrel" because of its acidic taste. Also the trifoliate leaf-arrangement points towards this identification, suggested by Pliny’s use of the distributive numeral trina or terna *three each". [[1]].

Carnoy (1959: 201-2) s.v., offers different identifications, which do however not stand up to scrutiny. He sees the word as a name for plants that have an acidic taste and he mentions Oxalis cernua Thunb., nowadays usually referred to as Oxalis pes-caprae L. "Cape sorrel" [[2]], which is a South African bulbous wood sorrel with showy yellow flowers. Its region of origin precludes it from any consideration. In second place he mentions Rumex acetosa L. "common sorrel", but even the short description Pliny offers – "it has three leaves" – excludes this candidate.

WilfGunther 18:38, 12 March 2015 (UTC)

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