Rumex acetosa (Green Sorrel)

Plant Info
Also known as: Common Sorrel, Garden Sorrel, Common Sheep Dock
Family:Polygonaceae (Buckwheat)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:sun; disturbed soils; fields, along shores, waste areas
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: UPL NCNE: UPL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 3-petals Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: whorled

[photo of a flower cluster branch] Loose branching clusters at the top of the plant, each branch with several whorls of 4 to 8 slender-stalked flowers, with separate male and female flowers on the same or separate plants. Flowers are about 1/8 inch long, green to pink to reddish, 3-sided with 2 series of tepals (petals and similar sepals). The outer tepals are much smaller than the inner and strongly bent back (reflexed). The 3 inner tepals are heart-shaped to triangular with rounded angles, distinct venation across the surface and broad, papery wings that are somewhat wavy along the edge. At the base of each inner tepal is a projection called a grain, very narrow and about half as long as the tepal, often obscure and may be absent altogether. Tepals are slightly spreading and close up after pollination. Flower stalks are very slender and smooth.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of basal leaf] Leaves are mostly basal, up to 5 inches long and 1½ inches wide, lance-oblong, blunt to pointed at the tip, with a pair of downward pointing lobes at the base (sagitate), on a long stalk, becoming smaller and stalkless with somewhat clasping bases as they ascend the stem. Edges are toothless and may be slightly wavy, surfaces are hairless.

[photo of ocrea, stem, and base of upper leaf] At the base of the leaf stalk is a brownish papery sheath (ocrea) that surrounds the stem. Stems are erect, unbranched except in the flower clusters, ribbed and hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] A flower produces a single seed, wrapped in the persistent tepals which form a capsule-like structure. Seeds are 3-sided, oval-elliptic with an abrupt taper to a short beak at the tip, dark brown, and about 2 mm long.


An uncommon introduction in Minnesota, Green Sorrel may be mistaken for the ubiquitous Common Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), which has flowers and fruits about half the size of Green Sorrel, lacking wings on the tepals, and has smaller leaves with a pair of basal lobes that extend outward (hastate), not down (sagitate).

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lake County.


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