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.
I am really enjoying your weedy Wednesday posts.
I will have to look out for Red Sorrel. I won’t find it in my garden though, as I have soggy clay here.
Probably just as well as it can be a problem… I am hoping it doesn’t start invading my flower beds!
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. 😃
We have a field with this plant near us and yes, always lots of Small Copper butterflies. Amelia
😃 It is nice to make the connection between plant and butterfly.
Here in Texas, we are still enjoying many wildflowers in our pasture!
Those weeds look familiar. Maybe we have something similar here.
It wouldn’t surprise me. 😉
I think we have that weed/plant here too. Amazing how many we think are nuisance and indeed do have benefits.
I think they all have their purpose, often unknown to us! 😉
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.
I think many of the plants I consider weeds can be eaten in small quantities, but I do prefer my homegrown rucola! 😉
For those who do not mind growing them, home grown dandelions also seem to be better than wild dandelions.
Oh, we have this one in spades, too. I must admit the red glow of the flowers is quite attractive in a meadow, but what a pain to get out of a garden bed!
Luckily it hasn’t got anywhere near my flower beds… yet!
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
It is always nice and often a revelation to know which plants our butterflies like. 😃 Thank you for linking in again Amy.
I had the sorrel in my garden further north. I thought it was pretty and let it go and had regrets about doing that later. Never ate any.
It will not be allowed to get too near to my flower beds! 😉
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.
Well, you are probably lucky Kris, as it is a nuisance weed in gardens. They spray on crops to destroy weeds in this family here!
Interesting. It looks beautiful out in the meadow area. These posts are fun and informative. Thank you!
Glad you are enjoying them Beth. 😃
I think we had that in our yard when I was little and we called it sourgrass. The Small Copper is a beauty.
I have rarely seen the Copper butterfly, so am pleased they have now found our garden!
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! 🙂
Well, I wouldn’t want a lot of these in my flower beds! There is enough space between them and my beds for now!
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.