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Wood Sorrel- Oxalis acetosella

Wood Sorrel - Oxalis acetosella

Main features

  • Grows in thick mats in woodland

  • Three heart-shaped leaflets per stem

  • Heart-shaped leaflets do not meet in the middle, they join the stem

  • Pink-veined flowers in early summer

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Wood Sorrel - Oxalis acetosella

Edible plant in moderation - novice

Other common names: Common Wood Sorrel, Irish Shamrock, Cuckoo Bread, European Wood Sorrel, Candle of the Woods, Fairy Bells, Cuckoo's Meat, Cups and Saucers, Bird's Bread and Cheese, Wood Ash, Whitsun Flower, Laverocks


Scientific name meaning: Oxalis is derived from the Greek "Oxys" meaning "sour". Acetosella means "vinegar salts"

Season Spring to Autumn​

Habitat - where will I find it? Woodland and gardens with dappled shade

Description - what does it look like? Forms thick mats on woodland floors. Each leaf stem has three loveheart-shaped leaflets. The leaflets each meet the stem individually, rather than meeting each other.

The five petals of the bell-shaped flowers have pink-veins running through them

Possible lookalikes Could be confused with poisonous Trefoils, but these have oval-shaped rather than heart-shaped leaflets, and Clovers, which also have oval-shaped leaflets. Wood Sorrel could easily be confused with other members of the Oxalis family, but these are edible

Use as a food Wood 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 juice of Wood Sorrel can also curdle milk

Use in herbal medicine Wood Sorrel has been used  as a pain killer, diuretic, to increase menstrual flow, to treat chest conditions, to reduce fever, to increase appetite, and to treat pimples/boils

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

Other uses  Has been used to remove stains from linen

Hazards High levels of oxalic acid is what gives Wood 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, calculus condition, or gastritis, and taking blood thinners, should also avoid Wood Sorrel in quantity

Importance to other species The flowers of Wood Sorrel provide a nectar source for bees, hoverflies and other insects

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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