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Sheep's Sorrel- Rumex acetosella

Sheep's Sorrel - Rumex acetosella

Main features

  • Grows in rosettes in grassland

  • One leaf per leaf stem

  • Leaves have horizontal basal lobes

  • Tall flower stalks to 30cm in summer

  • Red-pink seed pods follow flowers

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Sheep's Sorrel - Rumex acetosella

Edible plant in moderation - novice

Other common names Field Sorrel, Lamb Sorrel, Sour Weed, Red Sorrel, Common Sheep Sorrel


Scientific name meaning Rumex is derived from the New Latin word Rumicis, which comes for an ancient word for the dock and sorrel family. Acetosella means "vinegar salts"

Season March to November

Habitat - where will I find it? Acid grassland and heath. It is native to British Isles and can be found throughout Europe

Description - what does it look like? Leaves grow in rosette formation, with one leaf per leaf stem (petiole) emerging from the basal rosette. The leaves have horizontal lobes at their base giving them the shape of a halberd sword

Possible lookalikes Field Bindweed (Convolvulvus arvensis) grows in the same habitat and with a similar leaf-shape to Sheep's Sorrel. However, Field Bindweed has a trailing, rambling growth habit and has numerous leaves along a single plant stem

Use as a food Sheep's Sorrel has a very sharp citrus taste, due to its oxalic acid content (see Hazards). Its leaves and flowers are used raw in salads, or can be used to replace lemon or lime in dishes requiring and acidic zing.

The root can be made into noodles, by first drying and grinding into a powder. This powder can also be combined with bread making flours.

The juice of Sheep's Sorrel can also curdle milk

Use in herbal medicine Sheep's Sorrel has been used to treat digestive problems, water retention, fever, bloat, inflammation, urinary tract complaints, tumours, heavy menstruation and even cancer.

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Other uses  Dyes can be made from various parts of the plant. The roots produces greens, grey and browns, while the leaves and stems produce a blue-grey

Hazards High levels of oxalic acid is what gives Sheep's Sorrel its distinctive acid taste. However, this acid should not be eaten in large amounts. For healthy people, it is fine in small quantities.

Oxalic acid binds to other nutrients, particularly Calcium, making them unavailable for the body to use and causing a deficiency.

Oxalic acid in quantity will also aggravate rheumatism, kidney stones, gout and arthritis. Those suffering from hyperacidity or taking blood thinners, should also avoid Sheep's Sorrel in quantity.

Importance to other species The leaves of Sheep's Sorrel are eaten by various butterfly and moths species' larva

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

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