Wood sorrel

Wood sorrel leaves (Oxalis acetosella)
A delicate plant with trifoliate leaves, Wood Sorrel grows in abundance in woodlands and shady hedgerows all over the British Isles. The plant has a sour lemony flavour that adds a zingy taste to any dish.

Table of Contents

Wood sorrel: Plant profile

Common names

Wood Sorrel, European Wood Sorrel, Fairy Bells, Wood Sour, Cuckoo’s Meat, Laverock, Alleluia, Shamrock, Seamsóg (IE)

Botanical name

Oxalis acetosella

Plant family

Oxalidaceae (Wood sorrel)


Europe. Widespread all over Ireland and the UK, except the Fens in eastern England.

Where to find Wood Sorrel

Woodland and shady hedgerows.

When to find Wood Sorrel

Leaves early spring to mid-autumn.

How to identify Wood Sorrel

Wood Sorrel is a low-growing perennial. The leaves are trifoliate with heart shaped leaflets, which ‘wilt’ or close at night or if conditions are harsh. The plant has tendency to form vast green carpets under the forest floor. The flowers are white with tiny purple veins and have five petals. The  seeds grow in a small green pod.

Wood Sorrel lookalikes

The plant can be confused wirh Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) or White Clover (Trifolium repens), though the mature leaves of Clover don’t have a heart shape and they primarily grow on grassland, while Wood Sorrel grows on woodland. It could also be confused with other poisonous Trefoils.

There are other similar  Oxalis sp. such as Pink Sorrel (Oxalis incarnata) which do not usually grow wild but are also edible.

Wood sorrel in flower (Oxalis acetosella)

All about Wood Sorrel

Wood Sorrel forms low growing mats of lush green leaves in shady hedgerows and damp forests around the base of the trees at almost any time of year.

Rising from these carpets, little white flowers with pink or purple veining hang on relatively thin stems. These delicate flowers and soft green leaves fold up its leaves at night and when the conditions are tough.

Medicinal properties of Wood Sorrel

It has diuretic and astringent properties and is full of vitamin C. Hence, wood sorrel has been used in the past for treating scurvy.

Culinary uses and recipes with Wood Sorrel

All parts of the plant are edible, including leaves, flowers and stems.

Wood Sorrel has a sharp taste somewhere in between apple skin, grape and lemon and can function as aromatic herb, salad leaf or green vegetable. The leaves make a tangy Polish soup and are ideal for fish sauces and zingy salads.

Wood sorrel leaves (Oxalis acetosella)

Safe foraging of Wood Sorrel

Just like spinach, it should not be eaten in large amounts due to high content in oxalic acid. Though this is not a problem when you follow a diverse diet, people with gout, rheumatism and kidney stones should avoid it in quantities.

Ecological importance of Wood Sorrel

The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects.

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Alvaro // Wild Plant Guy

I am the human behind BritishLocalFood. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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