Wood sorrel. Oxalis acetosella


NATIVE ----------------------YES


EDIBLE-----------------------YES {see text}



Walking through woodland---------

Walking through shady woodland, especially those with high banks, the chances are that you will encounter this woodland beauty. It is one of the species that claims to be the shamrock along with other species such as the lesser trefoil and other members of the clover family. It may surprise some readers to learn that there is no such plant as the shamrock, the name derives from a Gaelic word, meaning a clover like plant.

The wood sorrel is not a true sorrel which belong to the genus Rumex and the family Polygonaceae, but rather to the Family Oxalidaceae, which includes many garden cultivars.

Below--- the wood sorrel

 The foliage is borne on thin stalks which are often tinged with a reddish colour. The leaflets are somewhat folded along the middle. They are sensitive to light and only in shady localities do they fully open. Should they be exposed to sunlight they will close on the stem giving a pyramidal appearance. This is in order to protect the under surface. Nature has decreed this evolution to ensure they do not loose moisture by way of evaporation from the pores. This pyramidal effect also occurs during inclement weather and at night to give protection from heavy dews.  Photo -Dal


Flower and seed.-------------

The fragile looking flowers which are borne on long stalks have five spreading petals,which are delicately veined with lilac-coloured lines. These beautiful markings may best be seen with the  aid of a magnifying glass. The sepals have scalloped margins and clasp the petals from beneath. There is a certain amount of nectar at the base of the petals but they are seldom visited by insects in their shady homes.

The white flowers which enhance the woodland bankings are not the only flowers this plant produces. Another batch may be found later in the year. However, to see these one will need to look carefully under the dense foliage where they are concealed. The petals of these flowers do not open out like their external counterparts.These flowers are self pollinating and produce a copious amount of seed.

Medicinal and culinary uses.

The genus name of Oxalis is derived from the Greek oxys meaning sour or acidy and the species name acetosella alludes to its vinegar salts.  Both names allude to the sour taste of the leaves. This also gave rise to the plants common name, Wood {habitat} and Sorrel which derives from an old French word meaning sour. { See link-LATIN NAMES EXPLAINED} for more translations.

PARTS USED MEDICINALLY--- leaves fresh or dried. They were employed against fevers, catarrh and urinary disorders. The juice of the leaves was once employed to make a clear syrup.. The juice was used as a gargle and employed to alleviate the pain of mouth ulcers. However, oxalic salts do not suit every body and is not recommended for those with gout or rheumatic disposition. { see WILD HERB ADVISE}.

The main use these days for the herb is of a culinary nature. The fresh leaves may be used in cooking wherever one would use lemon juice, especially when cooking fish. It imparts a lovely lemony flavour when the fresh leaves are added to the dish. I have employed this foliage in this manner on many occasions with tasty results.

Get to know wood sorrel

Its general characteristic is of a dainty little plant, with delicate looking leaves and blooms. It grows in its shady woodland home and other shady localities. It has a rootstock with a creeping habit. This rootstock sends up thin delicate leaves which consist of three heart shaped leaflets very similar in form to those of the clovers. The leaflets are dark green on the upper surface, however, on the underside they have a purplish hue. Below the components of Wood sorrel.


Garden varieties

There are many garden cultivars which will grow in shady aspects of the garden. But some have been developed to flower in the sunlight such as the one photographed below.  photo-Dal

Pink flowered garden cultivar.

Photograph courtesy of Minghong.

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