Rumex acetosella in the broad sense is an extremely variable and taxonomically complicated polyploid complex, which includes diploids, tetraploids, hexaploids, and octoploids[
Acetosa acetosella (L.) Mill.
Acetosa acetoselloides (Balansa) Holub
Acetosa hastata Moench
Acetosa repens Gray
Acetosa sterilis Mill.
Acetosella angiocarpa (Murb.) Á.Löve & D.Löve
Acetosella multifida tenuifolia (Wallr.) Kubát
Acetosella multifida vulgaris (Fourr.) Kubát
Acetosella pyrenaica (Lapeyr.) Á.Löve & D.Löve
Acetosella vulgaris (W.D.J.Koch) Fourr.
Acetosella vulgaris tenuifolia (Wallr.) P.D.Sell
Lapathum acetosella (L.) Scop.
Lapathum arvense Lam.
Pauladolfia acetosella (L.) Börner
Rumex acetosella tenuifolius Wallr.
Rumex acetoselloides Balansa
Rumex angiocarpus Murb.
Rumex arvensis Dulac
Rumex australis (Willk.) A. ernandez
Rumex falcarius Willd. ex Ledeb.
Rumex fascilobus Klokov
Rumex pyrenaica Lapeyr.
Rumex tenuifolius (Wallr.) Á.Löve
Common Name: Sheeps Sorrel
Rumex acetosella is a slender, erect, herbaceous perennial plant producing a cluster of stems from a rhizomatous rootstock; it can grow around 10 - 50cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Rumex acetosella is a widespread weed, probably originating in Europe but now widespread through much of the temperate zone[
]. Some races of Rumex acetosella are now distributed almost worldwide as introduced and often completely naturalized aliens[
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[
Temperate Eurasia - Iceland and the Atlantic coast of Europe, east to Russian Far East, Japan, Korea and China
Heaths and acid grasslands[
]. A weed of acid soils[
]. Hilly grasslands, forest margins, moist valleys; at elevations from 400 - 3,200 metres[
]. Wood margins, slopes, pine woods, sands, bluffs, fallows, and roadsides[
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Succeeds in most soils[
], preferring a moist moderately fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position[
]. Although a plant of acid soils, it can tolerate some alkalinity[
A good food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies[
], it grows well in the summer meadow[
Being wind -pollinated, Rumex species usually hybridize readily, especially with other members of the genus they are more closely related to[
A dioecious species - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
Leaves - raw or cooked[
]. A delicious lemon-like flavour, most people consider them too strong to use in quantity, but they are excellent as a flavouring in mixed salads[
]. The leaves should only be used in small quantities due to the oxalic acid content. The leaves can be used as thickeners in soups etc[
], they can also be dried for later use[
Root - cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and made into noodles[
Seed - raw or cooked[
]. Easy to harvest, but the seed is rather small and fiddly to use[
A drink similar to lemonade (but without the fizz) is made by boiling up the leaves[
Sheep's sorrel is a detoxifying herb, the fresh juice of the leaves having a pronounced diuretic effect[
]. Like other members of the genus, it is mildly laxative and holds out potential as a long term treatment for chronic disease, in particular that of the gastro-intestinal tract[
The plant is also part of a North American formula called essiac which is a popular treatment for cancer. Its effectiveness has never been reliably proven or disproven since controlled studies have not been carried out. The other herbs included in the formula are Arctium lappa, Ulmus rubra and Rheum palmatum[
The whole plant, used in the fresh state, is diaphoretic, diuretic and refrigerant[
]. A tea made from the leaves is used in the treatment of fevers, inflammation and scurvy[
]. The leaf juice is useful in the treatment of urinary and kidney diseases[
A leaf poultice is applied to tumours, cysts etc, and is a folk treatment for cancer[
A tea made from the roots is astringent and is used in the treatment of diarrhoea and excessive menstrual bleeding[
Dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots, they do not need a mordant[
An extract of the plant is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as a skin conditioner and soothing agent[
Seed - sow autumn or spring in situ.
Division in spring.