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Wood Sorrel and Fish -quite a Dish

Updated on August 6, 2015

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

WOOD SORREL,Oxalis acetosella-------------------

Walking through shadywoodland, especially those with high banks, the chances are that you will encounter this woodland beauty. It is one of the species that lays claim to being the shamrock, along with other species such as the lesser trefoil and other members of the clover family. It may surprise some readers 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 the FamilyOxalidae, which include many garden cultivars.

Components of Wood Sorrel

This illustration is courtesy of Kurt Stueber
This illustration is courtesy of Kurt Stueber

Basic Biology of the 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 root stock 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 produce a purplish hue. They are borne on thin leaf stalks which are often tinged by reddish colours near the base. As the illustration above demonstrates the leaves are somewhat folded along the middle . They are sensitive to the intensity of light and only in shadylocalities do the leaves fully open. Should they be touched by the strong sunlight they they close on the stem giving a pyramidal appearance. This is in order to protect the under surface. Nature has decreed this evolution to ensure that 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.

Flowers and seeds-----------The fragile looking flowers which are borne on long stalks have five spreading white 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 there shady homes.

The white flowers that enhance the woodland bankings are not the only flowers the plant produces. Another batch may be found a little later in the year . However, to see these flowers one will have to closely through the foliage where they are concealed. The petals of these flowers are not fully developed and they never open out like their external counterparts. This type of flower is self pollinating and prodcues a copious amount of seeds.

Wood Sorrel flowers

The dainty flowers of the wood sorrel are not the only type of flowers they produce. Photograph courtesy of Kjetil Lenes.
The dainty flowers of the wood sorrel are not the only type of flowers they produce. Photograph courtesy of Kjetil Lenes.

Medicinal and Culinary Uses of Wood Sorrel.

The genus name of Oxalis is derived from the Greek oxys meaning sour or acidy and the species name acetosella alludes to vinegar salts. Both names allude to the sour taste of the leaves. This also gave rise to the plants common name of wood { habitat} and sorrel, which derives from an old French word meaning sour.

Parts used medicinally--- leavesfresh or dried. They are employed against fevers, catarrh and urinary disorders. The juice of the leaves were once employed to make a clear syrup. The juice used as a gargle was employed to alleviate the pain from mouth ulcers. However, oxalic salts do not suit everybody and is not recommended for those of a gout or rheumatic disposition.

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

Garden varieties of Oxalis enhance the shady parts of the garden. Indeed some culivars have been bred to grow well in the sunlight. The flowers vary from pink, yellow , blue and white.

Pink flowered Oxalis

This pink flowered oxalis is a popular garden variety which enhances any garden. Photgraph courtesy of Minghong.
This pink flowered oxalis is a popular garden variety which enhances any garden. Photgraph courtesy of Minghong.
common wood sorrel. photograph by D.A.L.
common wood sorrel. photograph by D.A.L.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi, Carol, thank you Like you I appreciate the beauty around us in all its forms. Glad you liked it.

    • reddog1027 profile image


      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      An lovely and informative hub. I really enjoy the way you talk about the plants you encounter on your walks.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      VAMPGYRL420, nice to meet you , thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

      Darlene, hi, herbs are there for every one to use, and they are free. Thank you for your visit my friend.

      Hi Jill, your comments are always appreciated. the best way to check if your plant is o.k. for flavouring is to taste a small amount of the leaf. Sometimes the cultivar's loose their flavour.

      billyaustindillon, thank you for your appreciated comment.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      8 years ago

      Another great source of information - thanks again.

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      What an informative hub! I really enjoy joining you in your walks. You have such a nice way of combining lessons and beautiful pictures.

      You know, I also have a pink Oxalis in my garden. However, its leaves are purple instead of green. It's really beautiful. I wonder if its leaves can also be used for flavoring?

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Wonderful hub, I really love the last picture it is so clear and you can see each leaf, dose the public still use all these different herbs now, it seems nice to walk about around your yard and just grab a few things and make a tonic...thumbs up, and thank you my friend...

    • VAMPGYRL420 profile image

      Windy Grace Mason 

      8 years ago from Belle Haven, VA

      Beautifully written Hub, D.A.L. Thank you for this useful information :)Many Blessings! -Windy Grace


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