This is oxalis triangularis, otherwise known as purple shamrock. It sits in my south window in the perfect spot to catch the full sun, positioned right where I can enjoy it whenever I’m sitting in my favorite chair nursing the wee babe, or less frequently, as I am this week, convalescing from illness. I especially love the way the sunlight glows through the translucent lavender petals and maroon leaves, and the way those tri-lobed leaves go to bed every night when the sun goes down, folding up neatly into little origami points.
It’s my very favorite houseplant—but nice as all these things are, it might surprise you to know that it’s really an entirely different quality than these that elevated it to the top of the list.
What this photo doesn’t tell you is that last week, this favorite plant of mine had an accident. We won’t name any names, but lets just say that having houseplants in the same house as toddlers is a rather optimistic idea. Also, this is why I don’t (or shouldn’t) ever buy expensive flower pots. Furthermore, it’s the third accident it’s had of this sort, not to mention multiple other instances of small hands plucking off way too many leaves and stems, because apparently I’m not the only one who thinks it’s pretty.
It’s not what I would call a sturdy plant by looking at it. The leaves are tender and the stems easily broken, and every accident has literally crushed it. Every time I’ve tucked it into a new pot when the former has been broken, or given it an extra drink after an inopportune childish pruning, I’ve thought that surely this was it. Surely, the oxalis was going to succumb to adversity this time around. I’ve had other houseplants that have given up the ghost under far less trying circumstances.
And, for a few days, it generally supports my fear. All the remaining foliage dies. By all appearances, it is time to dump the pot and move on with life. But, always, just when I’ve given up on it, the coil of a tiny translucent shoot appears, tipped in the deep purple of the tiniest of exquisite new leaves—and the oxalis lives on yet again.
This seemed quite miraculous to me until I learned that the key to the strength of the oxalis is not in it’s stems, leaves or flowers, or even it’s roots. It’s strength is actually in tiny tuberous bulbs, which are the true, hidden heart of the plant.
This then is the quality that has elevated this little houseplant to the top of my list of favorites. A gorgeous little plant that obligingly flowers year round and can bounce back after any manner of toddler encounters? This may very well be perfection in a pot.
There are quite a few lessons here, but perhaps the most important is that a person’s ability to handle hard times with resilience stems directly from where they are drawing their strength in all of the other times. And the people who I have watched face trying times, who get back up time after time, with wounded souls shining strong, beautiful and tender yet again, always have one thing in common: their day-to-day lives have been centered in Christ. There’s a difference, you see, between rising from adversity with a shell of hardened bitterness or cynicism, and that of rising from adversity with a renewed growth in faith, gentleness and hope. Only a heart deeply rooted in Jesus can do that.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” (Isaiah 40:29)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2)
To view a fun time lapse video of oxalis leaves “going to sleep”, go here.