Sheep Sorrel
Rumex acetosellaPolygonaceae
Whole Plant
Whole Plant
Whole PlantWhole PlantFlowerFlower
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted


  • Field sorrel, Red sorrel, Red-top sorrel, Cow sorrel, Mountain sorrel, Horse sorrel, Sour-grass, Sour-weed, Red-weed, Indian cane
  • Acetosella acetosella, A. tenuifolia, A. vulgaris, Rumex angiocarpus, R. tenuifolius

The Plant:

  • An herbaceous perennial, 6-12 inches tall.

The Leaves:

  • alternate
  • linear or lanceolate upper leaves
  • lower leaves arrow shaped
  • hairless
  • lobes at base with possible teeth

The Stem:

  • slender
  • simple or branched
  • silvery sheaths

The Flowers:

  • Small flowers with six sepal-like petals growing on erect panicled racemes. The outer sepals are green, the inner three sepals are larger and colored.

The Fruits:

  • triangular achene
  • reddish brown
  • flower parts sometimes remain attached

The Habitat:

  • fields
  • roadsides
  • moors


  • spreads vegetatively by creeping rhizomes
  • seeds are dispersed by wind and insects

Key ID Features:

  • light green halberd-shaped leaves
  • red tiny flowers

Similar Species:

  • Garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa) closely resembles Sheep sorrel but is a larger plant.


  • Grows in sour soils
  • On Nantucket, this species is found in natural areas, where it frequently grows in dense, circular populations that have been expanding over time. In June this plant gives the moors their red color.

Growth Form: Herb

Origin: Europe, Russia, Middle East, North Africa

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Likely Invasive

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Not evaluated

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: no

Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston