poetry and prose about place

Sheep Sorrel (Rumex Acetosella L.)

with 6 comments

At this time of year, some of the fallow fields adjacent to our Federal-Provincial Agricultural ‘Farm’ in Fredericton are shadowed with bright red.  Closer inspection shows these fields are filled with Sheep Sorrel, in scarlet bloom.

The common Sheep Sorrel (Rumex Acetocella L.) is a small, slender plant, less than a foot high, with distinctive leaves shaped a little like an arrowhead or halberd.  The lobes at the base of each ‘arrowhead’ leaf point backwards, a shape described in botany as ‘hastate’.

Sheep Sorrel is considered a weed, growing along roadways and in fields.  It prefers acidic, ‘sour’ soils and is considered an indicator of these soils.

Sheep Sorrel (Rumex Acetosella  ) is also known as Common Sorrel, Field Sorrel, Red Sorrel, and Sour Weed.  In French it is called surette or oseille.  The old generic name Acetosella means ‘little sorrel’.  Sheep Sorrel is from the Buckweat Family of plants.

The flowers of Sheep Sorrel are small, distributed in an open cluster along the stem.  The female flowers are maroon and the male flowers are brownish-green.

The leaves of Sheep Sorrel are well-known as an edible plant.  They have a pleasantly tart, sour flavour and make a good nibble, an iced tea, or an addition to a salad.  They can also be used as a pot-herb – when cooked they reduce in size like spinach, and they lose the acid taste.  The Sheep Sorrel plant has a chemical called oxalate so cannot be consumed in large quantities.  Long-term consumption can affect calcium absorption in the body.  As always, please be sure of your identification before you consume any wild plant.

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.



red field


walk in the field with the scarlet flowers

arrowheads and halberds surely leave

a sour taste on the tongue

titration with alkaline needed

to sweeten the ground, dilute the red

return the soil

to more productive ways



©  Jane Tims 2012

6 Responses

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  1. Thanks for letting me know about this plant!


    Watching Seasons

    June 11, 2012 at 10:23 pm

  2. Love everything about this Jane!



    June 10, 2012 at 11:04 am

    • Hi. Thanks! It was an interesting post to write since I keep seeing new fields of sorrel! Jane


      jane tims

      June 11, 2012 at 7:11 am

  3. Jane, I think I read one time that spinach also has oxalate acid… and may be difficult for some people to digest… I guess it all depends upon the amount.



    June 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    • Hi. We assume that the plants we consume from the grocery store are safe, but you are right about moderation. People differ in their sensitivities. Jane


      jane tims

      June 9, 2012 at 9:22 am

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