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sour weed plant

Sour weed plant

Sheep’s sorrel, Red sorrel, Sour weed, Field sorrel, Acetosella vulgaris

Genus

Species

R. acetosella – R. acetosella is a vigorous, erect, rhizomatous perennial with narrowly lance-shaped, mid-green leaves and, from early spring to late autumn, slender, branching, red-flushed stems bearing yellow-green male flowers and maroon female flowers on separate plants.

Rumex acetosella is: Deciduous

Habit

Toxicity

Leaves are edible but should only be consumed in small quantities due to oxalic acid content. Leaves have a lemon-like flavour.

Flower

Yellow-green, Maroon in Spring; Yellow-green, Maroon in Summer; Yellow-green, Maroon in Autumn

Foliage

Green in Spring; Green in Autumn

Watch out for

Specific pests
Diseases

Generally disease free.

General care

Pruning

Can be difficult to eradicate or control. Cut back after flowering and prior to seed setting to avoid self-seeding.

Propagation

Sow in situ in spring.

Propagation methods

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Where to grow

Rumex acetosella (Sheep’s sorrel) will reach a height of 0.3m and a spread of 1m after 2-5 years.

Suggested uses

Cottage/Informal, Flavouring food and drinks, Wildflower, Wildlife

Cultivation

Grow in any well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Site carefully as spreads aggressively by rhizomes and seed. Male and female plants must be grown together if seed is required.

Soil type

Chalky, Loamy, Sandy

Soil drainage

Soil pH

Light

Partial Shade, Full Sun

Aspect

Exposure

UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Companion plants

Botanical name

Other names

Sheep’s sorrel, Red sorrel, Sour weed, Field sorrel, Acetosella vulgaris

Genus

Species

R. acetosella – R. acetosella is a vigorous, erect, rhizomatous perennial with narrowly lance-shaped, mid-green leaves and, from early spring to late autumn, slender, branching, red-flushed stems bearing yellow-green male flowers and maroon female flowers on separate plants.

Foliage

Habit

Toxicity

Leaves are edible but should only be consumed in small quantities due to oxalic acid content. Leaves have a lemon-like flavour.

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Colour

Flower

Yellow-green, Maroon in Spring; Yellow-green, Maroon in Summer; Yellow-green, Maroon in Autumn

Foliage

Green in Spring; Green in Autumn

How to care

Watch out for

Specific pests
Diseases

Generally disease free.

General care

Pruning

Can be difficult to eradicate or control. Cut back after flowering and prior to seed setting to avoid self-seeding.

Propagation

Sow in situ in spring.

Propagation methods

Monthly care advice

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Where to grow

Rumex acetosella (Sheep’s sorrel) will reach a height of 0.3m and a spread of 1m after 2-5 years.

Suggested uses

Cottage/Informal, Flavouring food and drinks, Wildflower, Wildlife

Cultivation

Grow in any well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Site carefully as spreads aggressively by rhizomes and seed. Male and female plants must be grown together if seed is required.

Soil type

Chalky, Loamy, Sandy

Soil drainage

Soil pH

Light

Partial Shade, Full Sun

Aspect

Exposure

UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

USDA zones

Zone 9, Zone 8, Zone 7, Zone 6, Zone 5, Zone 4

Defra’s Risk register #1

Plant name

Rumex acetosella (Sheep’s sorrel)

Common pest name

Corn borer; Corn moth; European corn borer; European maize borer; European stalk borer; Maize pyralid

Scientific pest name
Current status in UK
Likelihood to spread in UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)
Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)
General biosecurity comments

Polyphagous boring pest present in the UK since the 1930’s. A maize-affecting race was detected for the first time in 2010. Industry may wish to monitor for its presence and mitigate against impacts.

About this section

Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.

Date updated: 7 th March 2019 For more information visit: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/

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Find help and information on Rumex acetosella Sheep’s sorrel Red sorrel Sour weed Field sorrel vulgaris, including varieties and pruning advice. Click here to find out more.

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The best perspective for your health

Red sorrel, Rumex acetosella, sheep’s sorrel, sour weed

CLICK FOR: CLICK FOR: Nutrient tables

Red sorrel is a very common herb. It can be used as a spice raw or cooked. It is best to use when its leaves are green. If the leaves are red in color, this is a sign that it contains a high amount of oxalic acid. It blooms from May to the beginning of August.

General information:

From Wikipedia: “Rumex acetosella, commonly known as sheep’s sorrel, red sorrel, sour weed and field sorrel, is a species of flowering plant in the buckwheat family Polygonaceae. The plant and its subspecies are common perennial weeds. It has green arrowhead-shaped leaves and red-tinted deeply ridged stems, and it sprouts from an aggressive and spreading rhizome. The flowers emerge from a tall, upright stem. Female flowers are maroon in color.

Distribution and habitat:

The plant is native to Eurasia and the British Isles, but it has been introduced to most of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. It is commonly found on acidic, sandy soils in heaths and grassland. It is often one of the first species to take hold in disturbed areas, such as abandoned mining sites, especially if the soil is acidic. Livestock will graze on the plant, but it is not very nutritious and is toxic in large amounts because of oxalates. The American copper or small copper butterfly depends on it for food.”

Description:

“A perennial herb that has a slender and reddish upright stem that is branched at the top, reaching a height of 18 inches (0.5 meters). The arrow-shaped leaves are small, slightly longer than 1 inch (3 cm), and smooth with a pair of horizontal lobes at the base. It blooms during March to November, when yellowish-green (male) or reddish (female) flowers develop on separate plants at the apex of the stem, which develop into the red fruits (achenes).

Rumex acetosella is widely considered to be a hard-to-control noxious weed due to its spreading rhizome. Blueberry farmers are familiar with the weed because it thrives in the same conditions under which blueberries are cultivated.

Culinary uses:

There are several uses of sheep sorrel in the preparation of food including a garnish, a tart flavoring agent, a salad green, and a curdling agent for milk in cheese-making. The leaves have a lemony, tangy or nicely tart flavor. It is also known as sheep shower in parts of the country and there is a recipe for sheep shower wine online.”

​Interesting facts:

“The oldest fossil record of red sorrel comes from the Boreal/Atlantic and was found in 1931 near Moosburg (Baden-Württemberg, Germany). The oldest literary mention is by Johann Bauhin in the year 1592.*”

Note (italics): * = Translation from a German Wikipedia entry

Red sorrel, Rumex acetosella, sheep's sorrel or sour weed has a sour taste and contains many natural chemicals, including oxalic acid.