Rumex acetosella L. - Sheep Sorrel

Rumex acetosella plant

Family - Polygonaceae

Stems - To -50cm tall, from creeping rhizomes, erect, multiple from base, angled, glabrous, striate, branching above at inflorescence, thin.

Leaves - Alternate, petiolate, sheathing. Ocrea reddish at base near petiole, the remainder scarious. Petioles to 4cm long, with adaxial groove. Blade hastate, to +3cm long, glabrous, entire. Lateral lobes +/-1cm long, 4-5mm broad, acute. Central lobe +1cm broad, acute. Leaves reduced upward.

Rumex acetosella plantTypical leaf.

Inflorescence - Terminal paniculate arrangement of verticillate racemes to +20cm tall. Pedicels to 2mm long, jointed just below the flower. Plants dioeceous or polygamous.

Flowers - Staminate flowers - Sepals 6, in two whorls, to -1mm long, .5mm broad, acute to rounded at apex, scarious, spreading with maturity. Stamens 6. Filaments to .5mm long, glabrous, yellowish. Anthers to -1mm long, yellow. Pistillate flowers - Fruiting sepals green, to +1.5mm long, tuberculate but not with 1-3 large tubercles as seen in other species of the genus. Achene brown, +/-1mm long, 3-sided.

Rumex acetosella flowersStaminate flowers.

Rumex acetosella flowersPistillate flowers.

Flowering - May - September.

Habitat - Fields, waste ground, glades, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to Europe.

Other info. - This little plant has spread rapidly throughout Missouri and can be found throughout. The pollen of the plant is a cause of hay fever.
The leaves of this species are edible and were used traditionally as treatment for fevers, tumors, scurvy and other ailments. The plant is fairly high in tannins and oxalic acid so care should be taken not to consume it in great quantity.

Photographs taken at Dave Rock Conservation Area, St. Claire County, MO., 7-27-00 and in Brown Summit, NC., 4-20-03.


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