Wood Sorrel

Alternative Lawns – Ground Cover Species

picture of wood sorrel in bloom
Mature wood sorrel in bloom

Wood Sorrel Oxalis stricta

Overview: Low growing, perennial herb that can be found in a variety of habitats.

Landscaping: Short upright plants grow readily from seed. Plants are perennial but often behave more like annuals readily spreading and resprouting by seed. Grows best in moist soils and partial shade, but will grow in a wide range of conditions including full sun. Plants often take advantage of bare ground in lawns, garden beds and other human created landscapes.

Time to forage: Spring, Summer, Fall.

Identification: Low growing plant, reaches heights of 8-9” tall, stems grow outward along the ground but do not root; leaves are alternate and palmately compound and often resemble clover leaves; flowers are yellow and found above the leaves in clusters of one or two; fruit is a hairy, ribbed capsule. Clover like leaves but are more heart shaped.

Where to find it: Can be found in a variety of habitats including woodlands, fields, open forests, lawns, garden beds, and disturbed areas.

Edible parts of plant: Leaves, flowers, seed pods, and roots are all edible; can be eaten raw, cooked, or brewed into a tea.

Tips for foraging: Very hardy plant that is difficult to overharvest; can be pulled up by roots or can harvest stems/leaves judiciously.

Ethnobotany: The Meskwaki have used wood sorrel as a food source, and have boiled the plant to obtain an orange dye; rich in vitamin C and historically used to treat scurvy.

Importance to natural resources: Native plant to Iowa, serves as ground cover for small invertebrates, flowers are used by pollinators.

Nutritional value (per 100 grams): Provides 105% of Vitamin A of the daily requirement per 100 gram serving (about 3 cups).

Recipes: Wood sorrel can be used sparingly in salads. It has a mild, citrus flaver and is thought to have a refreshing quality. 

Additional References:
United States Forest Service
Native American Ethnobotany
Wild Edible

Seed Sources: 

Toadshade Wildflower Farm