MOUNTAIN SORREL

Oxyria digyna

Dock & Knotweed Family [Polygonaceae]

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8aug

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8green
inner
inner8red
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ4
type
typeZclustered
type
typeZtieredwhorls
type
typeZspiked
stem
stem8round
toxicity
toxicityZlowish
sex
sexZbisexual

14th June 2013, Cwm Idwal, near Devils Kitchen, North Wales. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
Sheltering in a rocky nook.


14th June 2013, Cwm Idwal, near Devils Kitchen, North Wales. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
The flower stems are thicker than the basal leaf stalks and have few, if any, branches and between none and 2 stem-leaves. [The other kidney-shaped leaves are basal leaves].


14th June 2013, Cwm Idwal, near Devils Kitchen, North Wales. Photo: © Dawn Nelson


14th June 2013, Cwm Idwal, near Devils Kitchen, North Wales. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
The flowering stalk grows up to 30cm high. The flowers in small panicles near the top have 4 tepals which resemble sepals (it has no petals). The flowers are neither keeled nor winged, have 6 stamens with versatile anthers are (i.e. are able to 'hinge' on the filament), there are 2 styles with their stigmas deeply divided. The inner of the flower enlarges when in fruit but produces no tubercules (oval red warts possessed by some other species of Docks).


1st Sept 2011, near sea level, Srath Mor, Isle of Skye Photo: © Gordon Anderson
The only other plant with dock-like fruits and rounded leaves is Monk's Rhubarb (Rumex alpinus) which, at up to 70cm, is up to twice the height of Mountain Sorrel. The leaves of Mountain Sorrel, by comparison, are flatter. Grows in tufts.


1st Sept 2011, near sea level, Srath Mor, Isle of Skye Photo: © Gordon Anderson
The fruits have four green tepals with red-edges. Like Monk's Rhubarb they lack warts. The achenes (seeds) are 3 to 4mm, have broad wings and are biconvex (lenticular, or lens-like).


1st Sept 2011, near sea level, Srath Mor, Isle of Skye Photo: © Gordon Anderson
Leaves form a low blanket around the flowering stems.


1st Sept 2011, near sea level, Srath Mor, Isle of Skye Photo: © Gordon Anderson
The long leaf-stalks extend upwards to support an almost matte-green kidney-shaped leaf from below at right angles to the leaf, attaching near the deep cut. These basal leaves are fairly thick and with a tendency for red edges, or even turn a dark red all over just like the fruits (but they dont go a dark red).


Not to be confused with: Mountsorrel (a village on the River Soar in Leicestershire) where, according to Wikipaedia today, it is presently at a temperature of 9°C, the wind is from the South at 21mph and the humidity is 79%: where 'now' is 15:10 am, Mon 13th Jan 2020.

Easily mis-identified as : Monk's Rhubarb (Rumex alpinus), which can grow in similar places but is more likely found near houses and roads (and probably Abbeys) on account of it once being popular as a pot-herb, but it is much taller and the leaves, although similarly heart-shaped, are slightly concave rather than slightly convex.

No very close relationship 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), Pale Pink-Sorrel (Oxalis latifolia), Purple Pink-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].

Mountain Sorrel is the only member of the Oxyria genus (at least in the UK) but is related to the Rumex genus of Docks and Sorrels. It is native and grows only on mountain grasslands or rocky ledges in wettish places, and has its main presence in Scotland with a few islands of presence in Cumbria and Snowdonia. It is strangely rare in Ireland even though that has plenty of damp rocky mountains, and an introduction to the Isle of Man.

Like other Docks and Sorrels such as Common Sorrel, Mountain 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 cause mechanical damage to cells when consumed. 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. It is also rich in Vitamin C, containing 360ppm by weight and used by the Inuit to cure scurvy. The genus name Oxyria, is Greek and means 'sour'. The aerial parts of the plant are all edible when cooked.


  Oxyria digyna  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Polygonaceae  

Distribution
 family8Dock & Knotweed family8Polygonaceae
 BSBI maps
genus8Oxyria
Oxyria
(Mountain-Sorrel)

MOUNTAIN SORREL

Oxyria digyna

Dock & Knotweed Family [Polygonaceae]