Sorrel (Rumex acetosa), also called common sorrel or garden sorrel, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the family Polygonaceae. Other names for sorrel include spinach dock and narrow-leaved dock ("dock" being a common name for the genus Rumex).[2]

Plant habit, Muséum de Toulouse
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Polygonaceae
Genus: Rumex
R. acetosa
Binomial name
Rumex acetosa
  • Acetosa agrestis Raf.
  • Acetosa amplexicaulis Raf.
  • Acetosa angustata Raf.
  • Acetosa bidentula Raf.
  • Acetosa fontanopaludosa (Kalela) Holub
  • Acetosa hastifolia Schur
  • Acetosa hastulata Raf.
  • Acetosa magna Gilib.
  • Acetosa officinalis Gueldenst. ex Ledeb.
  • Acetosa olitoria Raf.
  • Acetosa pratensis Garsault nom. inval.
  • Acetosa pratensis Mill.
  • Acetosa subalpina Schur
  • Rumex biformis Lange
  • Rumex fontanopaludosus Kalela

Sorrel is native to Eurasia and a common plant in grassland habitats. It is often cultivated as a leaf vegetable or herb.



Sorrel is a slender herbaceous perennial plant about 60 centimetres (24 inches) high, with roots that run deep into the ground, as well as juicy stems and arrow-shaped (sagittate) leaves which grow from a rosette.[3][4] The lower leaves are 7 to 15 cm (3 to 6 in) in length with long petioles and a membranous ocrea formed of fused, sheathing stipules. The upper leaves are sessile, (growing directly from the stem without a petiole) and frequently become crimson. It has whorled spikes of reddish-green flowers, which bloom in early summer, becoming purplish.[5][2] The species is dioecious, with stamens and pistils on different plants.[2]



Several subspecies have been named.[2] Not all are cultivated.

  • Rumex acetosa subsp. acetosa
  • Rumex acetosa subsp. ambiguus
  • Rumex acetosa subsp. arifolius
  • Rumex acetosa subsp. hibernicus
  • Rumex acetosa subsp. hirtulus
  • Rumex acetosa subsp. vinealis

Distribution and habitat


Rumex acetosa occurs in grassland habitats throughout Europe from the northern Mediterranean coast to the north of Scandinavia and in parts of Central Asia. It occurs as an introduced species in parts of New Zealand, Australia, and North America.[6] It can grow in poor soil.[3]



The leaves are eaten by the larvae of several species of Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) including the blood-vein moth, aphids and by non-specialized snails and slugs.[4]


Sorrel soup with egg and croutons, part of Polish cuisine

Common sorrel has been cultivated for centuries. The leaves are edible when young but toughen with age; they may be puréed in soups and sauces or added to salad.[3] The plant has a distinct sharp, sour taste.

In India, the leaves are used in soups or curries made with yellow lentils and peanuts. In Afghanistan, the leaves are coated in a wet batter and deep fried, then served as an appetizer or if in season during Ramadan, for breaking the fast. In Armenia, the leaves are collected in spring, woven into braids, and dried for use during winter. The most common preparation is aveluk soup, where the leaves are rehydrated and rinsed to reduce bitterness, then stewed with onions, potatoes, walnuts, garlic and bulgur wheat or lentils, and sometimes sour plums.

Throughout eastern Europe, wild or garden sorrel is used to make sour soups, stewed with vegetables or herbs, meat or eggs. In rural Greece, it is used with spinach, leeks, and chard in spanakopita.

"Escalope de saumon à l'oseille" (salmon escalope in sorrel sauce), invented in 1962 by the Troisgros brothers, is an emblematic dish of the French nouvelle cuisine.[7][8] French cuisine traditionally cooks fish with sorrel because its acidity dissolves thin fish bones.[9]

In the Caribbean, "sorrel" is a type of sweet hibiscus tea commonly made from the roselle flower,[10] but this plant from Western Africa is actually a form of hibiscus unrelated to the Eurasian sorrel herb.[11]


  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species",, retrieved 10 May 2016
  2. ^ a b c d Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p. 446. ISBN 9780521707725.
  3. ^ a b c Lyle, Katie Letcher (2010) [2004]. The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts: How to Find, Identify, and Cook Them (2nd ed.). Guilford, CN: FalconGuides. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-1-59921-887-8. OCLC 560560606.
  4. ^ a b Korpelainen, Helena; Pietiläinen, Maria (December 2020). "Sorrel (Rumex acetosa L.): Not Only a Weed but a Promising Vegetable and Medicinal Plant". The Botanical Review. 86 (3–4): 241. doi:10.1007/s12229-020-09225-z. hdl:10138/326558. ISSN 0006-8101. S2CID 221110563.
  5. ^ Blamey, M.; Fitter, R.; Fitter, A (2003). Wild flowers of Britain and Ireland: The Complete Guide to the British and Irish Flora. London: A & C Black. p. 64. ISBN 978-1408179505.
  6. ^ "Global spread map". Archived from the original (JPG) on August 16, 2017. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  7. ^ Miller, Bryan; Franey, Pierre (1995-07-12). "GREAT COOKS; Finesse Times Two". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  8. ^ Boulud, Daniel; Greenspan, Dorie (1999). Daniel Boulud's Cafe Boulud Cookbook. Scribner. ISBN 978-0684863436.
  9. ^ Le Règne végétal. Librairie des sciences naturelles. 1864. p. 480.
  10. ^ Sorrel Drink, A Caribbean Favorite During The Christmas Season
  11. ^ A hibiscus drink, by any of its names, is sweet