COMMON SORREL

Rumex acetosa

Dock & Knotweed Family [Polygonaceae]

month8may month8jun month8june month8jul month8july

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8green
inner
inner8red
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ3
type
typeZclustered
type
typeZtieredwhorls
type
typeZspiked
stem
stem8round
stem
stem8ribbed
toxicity
toxicityZlowish
sex
sexZdioecious

29th May 2012, Norden, Rochdale. Photo: © RWD
Up to 80cm tall, usually a lot shorter.


29th May 2012, Norden, Rochdale. Photo: © RWD
Spikes of flowers, sometimes visibly tiered, on ends of several flowering stalks branched off the main stem.


29th May 2012, Norden, Rochdale. Photo: © RWD
Stem round and ribbed. Flowers at first greenish.


29th May 2012, Norden, Rochdale. Photo: © RWD
 Common Sorrel is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are on separate plants. Male flowers three oval white-rimmed light-green petals with three smaller white-rimmed light-green spals behind (centre). Un-opened flower bud middle left.


29th May 2012, Norden, Rochdale. Photo: © RWD
 Male flowers bear six pollen-bearing stamens (the lime-green bifurcated flat 'springs' bottom middle).


29th May 2012, Norden, Rochdale. Photo: © RWD
 The upper flower has lost all six stamens, the lower still has some.


29th May 2012, Norden, Rochdale. Photo: © RWD
 Flowers hang in pairs on long fine filaments (right and top).


20th June 2012, Taxal Edge, Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Female plant is the same apart from the flowers.


20th June 2012, Taxal Edge, Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD


20th June 2012, Taxal Edge, Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
 Female flowers are surrounded by a tiny stubble of white to pink to red 'hairs'.


20th June 2012, Taxal Edge, Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
 Female flowers have three styles (not visible in photo).


6th June 2009, Huddersfield Canal, Marsden. Photo: © RWD
 Female plant. Flowers mostly turned to red fruits.


29th May 2012, Norden, Rochdale. Photo: © RWD
 Female plant. Flowers mostly turned to red fruits.


29th May 2012, Norden, Rochdale. Photo: © RWD
 Fruits have four wings and just one small wart.


20th June 2012, Taxal Edge, Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Stemless leaves clasp the stem with auricles pointing backwards.


20th June 2012, Taxal Edge, Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Auricles on stem leaves almost encircle the stem and point towards each other.


Easily mistaken for : many other Docks at a casual glance, but this is the only one with auricles nearly encircling the stem.

Some similarities to : Sheep's Sorrel but that has leaves on thin stalks rather than attached directly to the stem and with a stem-encircling auricle.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics :

Distinguishing Features : Only two Rumex species of Dock are dioecious, having male and female flowers on separate plants, being Common Sorrel and Sheep's Sorrel. Only one Rumex species has leaves without stems, Common Sorrel. (Sheep's Sorrel has leaves on long thin stems).

No relation to : Wood-Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), Pink Sorrel (Oxalis articulata), Pale Pink-Sorrel (Oxalis latifolia), Spreading Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata), Least Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis exilis), Upright Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis stricta), Pink Sorrel (Oxalis articulata), Pale Pink-Sorrel (Oxalis latifolia), Pink-purple Sorrel (Oxalis debilis) nor to Lilac Sorrel (Oxalis incarnata), [plants with similar names belonging to a differing Genus, Oxalis, which belongs to a differing family, Oxalidaceae, although both genera possess salts of Oxalic Acid such as Calcium Oxalate].

Although many docks hybridise with each other, Common Sorrel is not one of them.

Several rare sub-species exist, all under the same common name, Common Sorrel:

  • Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa subsp. ambiguus) found only in a few locations south of Blackpool
  • Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa subsp. biformis) found only near the coast in few locations south of Aberystwyth.
  • Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa subsp. hibernicus) was found in very few locations on the west coast of Eire but now only near Waterford.
None of the photos above show any of these rare sub-species. Both red and yellow dyes can be extracted from the plant.

Like other Docks and Sorrels Common Sorrel has an acid taste due to the presence of poisonous Oxalic Acid, specifically the calcium salt, Calcium Oxalate, which forms extremely tiny needle-shaped and extremely sharp crystals called raphides, which, when consumed, cause mechanical damage to cells puncturing the membranes and allowing things out and foreign substances in. That said, like other Sorrels, the leaves are still used in salads (not many leaves are used in salads). It is only fatal when great quantities are consumed as would happen if it were eaten as a vegetable instead.


  Rumex acetosa  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Polygonaceae  

Distribution
 family8Dock & Knotweed family8Polygonaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Rumex
Rumex
(Docks)

COMMON SORREL

Rumex acetosa

Dock & Knotweed Family [Polygonaceae]