Sheep’s sorrel

Sheep’s sorrel

Rumex acetosella

Common Name:

Sheep’s sorrel

Scientific Name:

Rumex acetosella

Alternative common names:

Red sorrel, sour weed, and field sorrel (English)


A perennial herb that has a slender and reddish upright stem that is branched at the top, reaching a height of (0.5 meters). The arrow-shaped leaves are small, slightly longer than (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.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.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Eurasia and the British Isles.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA-Category 1a Prince Edward and Marion Islands. Not listed on mainland or other off-shore islands.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, KZN and Mpumalanga.

How does it spread?

A noxious weed that is spreading through its rhizomes

Why is it a problem?

It can form colonies at least 4-10cm in diameter to the exclusion of other plants.

What does it look like?

Leaves: It has green arrowhead-shaped leaves and red-tinted deeply ridged stems, and it sprouts from an aggressive and spreading rhizome.

Flowers: The flowers emerge from a tall, upright stem. Female flowers are reddish and males are yellowish-green in colour.

Fruit/seeds: The seeds are red.

Does the plant have any uses?

There are several uses of sheep sorrel in the preparation of food including a garnish, a tart flavouring agent, a salad green, and a curdling agent for cheese. The leaves have a lemony, tangy or nicely tart flavour.

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