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Rumex acetosa - L.

Common Name Sorrel, Garden sorrel
Family Polygonaceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards Plants can contain quite high levels of oxalic acid, which is what gives the leaves of many members of this genus an acid-lemon flavour. Perfectly alright in small quantities, the leaves should not be eaten in large amounts since the oxalic acid can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The oxalic acid content will be reduced if the plant is cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[238].
Habitats Meadows, by streams and in open places in woodland[7, 17]. Often found as a weed of acid soils[1].
Range Most of Europe, including Britain, temperate Asia, N. America, Greenland.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Rumex acetosa Sorrel, Garden sorrel


Rumex acetosa Sorrel, Garden sorrel

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Rumex acetosa is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from June to August. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Acetosa hastulata Raf. Acetosa hastifolia Schur. Acetosa angustata Raf.

Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Meadow; Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Root  Seed
Edible Uses: Curdling agent

Leaves - raw or cooked[2, 4, 5, 7, 13, 27]. They make a thirst-quenching on their own, or can be added to salads, used as a potherb or pureed and used in soups[183]. A delicious lemon-like flavour, liked by most people who try them, they can be rather overpowering in quantity and are more generally used as a flavouring in mixed salads[K]. The leaves can also be dried for later use[12]. The leaves can be available all through the winter, especially in mild weather or if a little protection is given to the plants[K]. The leaves should be used sparingly in the diet[9, 21], see the notes on toxicity above. Flowers - cooked as a vegetable or used as a garnish[183]. Root - cooked. It is dried, ground into a powder and made into noodles[105]. Seed - raw or cooked[172]. Ground into a powder and mixed with other flours to make bread[183]. The seed is easy to harvest, but is rather small and fiddly to use[K]. The juice of the leaves can be used as a curdling agent for milks[4, 183].

Medicinal Uses

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Anthelmintic  Antiscorbutic  Astringent  Depurative  Diuretic  Febrifuge  Homeopathy  Laxative  
Refrigerant  Stomachic

The fresh or dried leaves are astringent, diuretic, laxative and refrigerant[4, 7, 14, 21, 238]. They are used to make a cooling drink in the treatment of fevers and are especially useful in the treatment of scurvy[4]. The leaf juice, mixed with fumitory, has been used as a cure for itchy skin and ringworm[4]. An infusion of the root is astringent, diuretic and haemostatic[4, 7, 14, 21, 218]. It has been used in the treatment of jaundice, gravel and kidney stones[4]. Both the roots and the seeds have been used to stem haemorrhages[4]. A paste of the root is applied to set dislocated bones[272]. The plant is depurative and stomachic[7, 14, 21, 218]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant[9]. It is used in the treatment of spasms and skin ailments[9].

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Other Uses

Cleanser  Dye  Polish

Dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots, they do not need a mordant[168]. A grey-blue dye is obtained from the leaves and stems[106]. An infusion of the stems is used as a polish for bamboo and wicker furniture and also for silver[53, 238]. The juice of the plant removes stains from linen[14] and also ink stains (but not ball-point ink) from white material[53, 238]. It is sometimes sold as 'essential salt of lemon'[4]. A dynamic accumulator gathering minerals or nutrients from the soil and storing them in a more bioavailable form - used as fertilizer or to improve mulch.

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Carbon Farming  Dynamic accumulator  Food Forest

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Hay  Management: Standard  Minor Global Crop  Staple Crop: Balanced carb

A very easily grown and tolerant plant, it succeeds in most soils[37], preferring a moist moderately fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position[200]. Shade tolerant[12]. Established plants are tolerant of considerable neglect, surviving even in dense weed growth[K]. Sorrel has been used since ancient times as a food and medicinal plant[244]. It is still occasionally cultivated for its edible leaves, there are some named varieties[183]. The plant stops producing leaves when it flowers in the summer, regrowing after the seed has set. Plants also usually die down in the winter. Cutting down the flowering stem will encourage the growth of fresh young leaves[4]. 'Blonde de Lyon' has large, only slightly acid leaves and is much less likely to flower than the type[200]. This means that the leaves of this cultivar are often available all through the summer and are often also produced throughout the winter, especially if the winter is mild[200, K]. A food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterfly, it is a good plant to grow in the spring meadow[24]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 6 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a clumper with limited spread [1-2]. The root pattern is fibrous dividing into a large number of fine roots [1-2].

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Management: Hay  Cut to the ground and harvested annually. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.
  • Staple Crop: Balanced carb  (0-15 percent protein, 0-15 percent oil, with at least one over 5 percent). The carbohydrates are from either starch or sugar. Annuals include maize, wheat, rice, and potato. Perennials include chestnuts, carob, perennial fruits, nuts, cereals, pseudocereals, woody pods, and acorns.

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Propagation

Seed - sow spring in situ. Leaves can be harvested within 8 weeks from sowing. Division in spring. Division is very simple at almost any time of the year, though the plants establish more rapidly in the spring. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, ensuring that there is at least one growth bud on each section of root. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Readers comment

   Jun 27 2011 12:00AM

The plant has quite an interesting flavor, the leaves are edible and have a lemon taste and a good texture. Still more interesting, is to cut the reddish flowering stem and suck the juice from it: it tastes not only lemony but also sweeter. Still, its not the kind of thing that you would want to eat a lot.

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