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.