Wild and Weedy Wednesday: 17th May, 2023

I have chosen a very weedy plant this week; each Wednesday I post about one of the wild flowers and/or weeds I find in my garden, and read up on its common names and uses. So many of them are edible, and this one is no exception: Red Sorrel, also known as Sheep’s Sorrel or Field Sorrel (Rumex acetosella).

It is small, pinkish red and spreads like mad via rhizomes, but has many benefits for wildlife. In fact, while reading about this plant for today’s post I discovered that it is beneficial to the Small Copper – a butterfly that I had photographed only a few days ago! The Copper depends on it for food, and it is also a food source for groundfeeding songbirds such as sparrows, of which we have plenty! So although its big sister, Common Sorrel or Rumex acetosa, also called dock leaf, caused us problems when we moved here (perhaps I’ll do a post on that too), I am happy to see this small and pretty one growing in the tall grass.

Here is the Small Copper, visiting one of my flower beds. 😃

Below you can see it is surrounded by several other wild plants or ‘weeds’, such as veronica, wild pansies and plantains, which may also feature in future posts.

It thrives on poor, sandy, slightly acid soil, in the full sun, so we have perfect conditions for it here. Drought is not a problem for it either. It grows to about 30 cm, and can flower all summer if not mown. It can give larger areas of fields or heathland a red shimmer.

I mentioned that it is edible, but only in small quantities due to the toxic oxalic acid. This makes it taste sour, which explains the German common name (Sauerampfer) meaning ‘sour bitter’! But a few young leaves and flowers can be added to a salad to pep it up. It is one of the seven herbs used for the famous ‘Frankfurt Green Sauce‘. (The other six are Borage, Chives, Anthriscus, Parsley, Salad Burnet and Cress.)

I would love to know what weeds and wild flowers grow in your gardens, so if you would like to join me on a Wednesday, please leave a link below.

Happy gardening!


31 thoughts on “Wild and Weedy Wednesday: 17th May, 2023

  1. I am enjoying these posts. I’m sure that I have lots of ‘weeds’ in my garden, but I am becoming more understanding of their benefits and I am leaving some. We have a similar soil here, so I expect it may be around, if I can keep my neighbours from mowing my front grassy area in their enthusiasm for a perfect patch.

    • I love seeing all sorts of wild things growing in lawns and if the grass is not cut too short lots of low-growing weeds/wild flowers will still grow. 😃

  2. I think we have that weed/plant here too. Amazing how many we think are nuisance and indeed do have benefits.

  3. This is one of the naturalized vegetables that grows wild right outside. However, because I happen to be one of those who must limit its consumption, I prefer to not consume it at all, or in very minor quantities with other greens.

  4. This is not a plant I’ve seen, Cathy, even in Missouri, where so many naturalized weeds/herbs from Europe have long ago taken root in the fields and pastures. (Plantain, for one, is extremely common.)
    It’s wonderful to give a haven to species that are so associated with a particular insect or other creature as well. Your Small Copper butterfly looks beautiful!
    I’ve posted about a very showy wildflower that has arrived lately, though not in my own garden: https://smallsunnygarden.substack.com/p/white-silk-petals

  5. Any plant that supports butterflies and birds is valuable. I read your description of its cultural requirements and found myself surprised that it I haven’t seen it in my own area but, as it’s yet another plant not even listed in my western garden guide, I’m guessing that it wants something it can’t get here.

  6. I love the way the color pops out to surprise the green landscape! Such a nice surprise, I would think! I need to have more of an open mind about weeds, I think, Cathy! 🙂

  7. Having given my yard a break for this May (no mow May) I am seeing many things my resident birds are enjoying as well as me on a mower for hours and all the gas I would have used. June 1st will be here soon enough.

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