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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

28 January, 2016

Sheeps Sorrel: the sour weed

Where there are bare patches of ground on the heath, often alongside footpaths, or sparsely grassy places then you may well find sheep's sorrel (Rumex acetosella); it certainly thrives on acid soils. It is a common plant and where it occurs it is usually quite well established.
Sheep's sorrel is a member of the dock family and its maroon flowers quickly give way to red seeds and the whole plant takes on a reddish-brown hue giving the appearance of being withered and finished when actually it is still quite active. The leaves are shaped like an arrowhead and I recall, as a lad, we used to bite them to release a bitter taste, we called it the vinegar plant! It is apparently also known as sour weed and the taste comes from oxalic acid. It is a small plant, rarely growing to no more than a few inches tall. It is much smaller than its similar relative, common sorrel.
It seems to be well thought of as a medicinal herb and is used for anti-cancer therapy, as an anti-inflammatory agent, an anti-bacterial agent and immune system booster, an all round good egg it seems!
Sheeps Sorrel: the sour weed