Sheep Sorrel

Scientific Name(s): Rumex acetosella
Abundance: common
What: leaves, seeds
How: young leaves raw, older leaves cooked; seeds toasted then threshed
Where: sunny fields
When: spring
Nutritional Value: vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates in seeds
Dangers: oxalic acid

Medicinal Summary:

Leaves - soothes nasal inflammations; reduces bronchitis (tisane)

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves grow in a basal rosette when young, and are arranged alternately along the stem as the plant matures.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are small and arrow-shaped or lanceolate with two pointed lobes at the base, typically measuring about 1 to 3 inches in length.

Leaf Venation: The venation is pinnate, with a central vein and smaller veins branching out towards the leaf edges.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margins are smooth (entire).

Leaf Color: The leaves are a bright green, sometimes with a reddish tinge, particularly in the lobes.

Flower Structure: The flowers are small and borne in dense, elongated clusters on tall, slender stalks.

Flower Color: The flowers are usually green or reddish.

Fruit: The plant produces a small, triangular, winged fruit that start green in color and turn yellow/red as they get older.

Seed: The seeds are enclosed within the winged fruit and are small and brown.

Stem: The stem is erect, slender, and can be reddish-green. Stem may be full red at maturity.

Hairs: There are no significant hairs on the leaves or stems.

Height: Sheep Sorrel typically grows to a height of 6 to 18 inches.

Very young sheep sorrel plant.

Slightly older sheep sorrel plant
Mature sheep sorrel leaf and stalk.

Sheep sorrel stems and seedpods turn red as they approach the end of their life.
Sheep Sorrel

Close-ups of sheep sorrel leaves. They can vary quite a bit in width.


Sheep sorrel seedheads.

Close-ups of immature sheep sorrel seeds.


Mature Sheep sorrel seedpods turning red.
Sheep Sorrel

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

In early winter rosettes of arrowhead-shaped leaves appear in open, sunny fields. These small, early plants quickly grow into large clumps of taste, sour leaves. The seed stalks and mature seeds have a reddish color and since usually grow among many brother/sister plants by late winter/early spring fields with sheep sorrel will have a very distinctive reddish hue.

Look for the arrowhead-shape leaves of sheep sorrel in early spring. By April in Houston the plant will have already gone to seed. The young leaves have a tangy, lemon flavor that is excellent raw by itself or added to salads. In Poland a delicious "Cream of Sorrel" soup is made with wine, cream, garlic, butter, and assorted other stuff. A similar soup can be made by adding chopped sheep sorrel leaves to a can of cream of mushroom soup plus a dash of wine. Don't tell your Polish cook friends this as they get rather touchy over it. :-/

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