Common sorrel

Common Sorrel

©Northeast Wildlife

Common sorrel

Scientific name: Rumex acetosa
Common sorrel is a common plant of grasslands, woodland edges, roadside verges and gardens. It is also known as 'sour ducks' because its leaves taste tart.

Species information


Height: up to 60cm

Conservation status


When to see

May to August


Common sorrel is a common, upright plant, often found in grasslands, and along woodland edges and roadside verges. It has slender leaves and attractive flowers that appear in May and June, peppering the green grasses of our meadows with crimson and pink. Its numerous other common names, from 'sour ducks' to 'vinegar plant', all allude to the fact that its leaves taste extremely tart and dry due to their high levels of oxalic acid.

How to identify

Common sorrel is a perennial with arrow-shaped leaves that grow from the stem at the base of the plant. Reddish flowers are carried on slender spikes.



Did you know?

Traditionally, the juice of common sorrel was used to remove stains from linen.

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try leaving wilder areas in your garden, such as patches of buttercups in your lawn or nettles near your compost heap, to see who comes to visit?