Thursday, 31 July 2014

Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)

Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) is a hardy perennial plant native to Europe and Asia. Also known as common wood sorrel, wood sour, fairy bells, cuckoo's meat, and shamrock because of the clover-like leaf. It is an indicator of ancient woodland.

An image of wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) leaves and flowers
Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)

Wild foraging

Wood sorrel is relatively easy to spot. It is very low growing and spreads like a carpet. It can often be found in patches or clumps in lightly shaded wooded areas and often grows in mossy areas, particularly on moss covered wood. The leaves are heart shaped and fold in the middle. It flowers from April to May and the flowers are white with light purple veins. Both flowers and leaves close up when the sun goes in and open up when the sun comes out. This plant has no odour but does have a tangy lemon flavour which can be used for identification purposes.

How to grow

Fresh wood sorrel seeds should be sown in pots and placed under cover. Plant out during the following spring. Established plants can be propagated by division. Individual plants are quite small and delicate. They probably do best in pots to get established before they are planted out.

Raw edible parts

Wood sorrel has raw edible flowers, leaves and tubers. The flowers and leaves have a sharp acidic lemony flavour because they are high in oxalic acid. The leaves and flowers make a good addition to a green salad. As a point of interest oca or New Zealand yams (O. tuberosa) also have raw edible flowers, leaves and tubers.

Other uses

Because of the acidity in the plant, it can be used to curdle plant milks. The fresh or dried leaves have many herbal medicinal uses.


Wood sorrel contains oxalic acid so shouldn't be used in large quantities (or at all) by those suffering from kidney disorders, gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

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