Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) — ID Guide

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) — Seamsóg Oxalidaceae

A beautiful, characteristic sign of Spring and a familiar sight to any of you out there who like to take a dander through the woods at this time of year.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) forming a small clump in a woodland in Co. Donegal. - Oisín
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) forming a small clump in a woodland in Co. Donegal. – Oisín Duffy

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) creeps along the forest floor, creating small clumps or carpets of lush green trifoliate (three leaflets) leaves. You can often find it growing around the base of moss covered trees also.

The distinctive trifoliate leaves of Wood Sorrel – Oisín Duffy
The distinctive trifoliate leaves of Wood Sorrel – Oisín Duffy

The flowers of the plant are white with purple veins which run the length of the five petals down into a yellow ring near the base of the flower. The flowers are on relatively thin stems and often drooping, which can make it difficult to get a decent photograph of the flower, but once seen, you will never forget it.

The dainty and beautiful flowers of Wood Sorrel, showing the purple venation and yellow ring at base – Oisín Duffy
The dainty and beautiful flowers of Wood Sorrel, showing the purple venation and yellow ring at base – Oisín Duffy

The leaves as mentioned above are trifoliate, which basically means they have three leaflets. You will probably be most familiar with this from “Shamrocks” or clover leafs. While I don’t usually mention plant edibility in my posts, the leaves of Wood Sorrel do have a distinctive sharp taste (it’s very much like apple skins and on occasions has a similar taste to sour apple sweets). The plant can cause poisoning in large doses, so don’t scoff too much of it!

Flowers and leaves of Wood Sorrel – Oisín Duffy
Flowers and leaves of Wood Sorrel – Oisín Duffy

One of the great things about this plant is that the leaves are as distinctive (if not more distinctive) than the flowers, so the species can be identified long after the flowers have gone over.

The flower amongst them all – Flower and leaves of Wood Sorrel – Oisín Duffy
The flower amongst them all – Flower and leaves of Wood Sorrel – Oisín Duffy

It is currently in flower in woodlands throughout the country, so why not get out there and have a look for this beautiful plant and if you happen to find it, why not put the record into the Spring Flower Project a joint project between the National Biodiversity Data Centre and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI).

Remember if you have any ideas for future posts or if you want help with identification you can ask me on Twitter @OshDuffy.

Oisín Duffy
About Oisín Duffy 23 Articles
Oisín Duffy is an ecologist and environmental educator with a special interest in the Flora of Ireland and Pollinators. He is the photographer and co-author of Biodiversity Ireland’s identification guide on “Trees and Shrubs”. He has a BA from NUIG and an MSc from NUIG and UL. Oisín is an active biological recorder, and current Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) Vice-county recorder for East Donegal (H34) and participates in a number of recording schemes run by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC), Bat Conservation Ireland (BCI) and others. In 2016, Oisín worked in conjunction with the National Biodiversity Data Centre to develop a plant monitoring scheme for Ireland. During the Summer of 2016, he toured Ireland giving workshops for the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. His most recent work has been as a photographer and author of the “Wildflowers in South Armagh”.

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