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What Is Common Wood-Sorrel?

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  • Written By: D. Grey
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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The common wood-sorrel is a member of the Oxalidaceae plant family, having the binomial name Oxalis acetosella. This plant is sometimes referred to as an alleluia because it blossoms between the Christian feast days of Easter and Pentecost. The common wood-sorrel is recognizable by its three leaves, which look like hearts or shamrocks, and its flowers are white with traces of pink. Growing conditions for this wood-sorrel involve damp soil and shady environments. It is also edible in reasonable amounts, possible to be included in recipes ranging from butter spreads to salads.

Growing naturally in parts of Asia and Europe, the common wood-sorrel is found frequently in temperate, shaded habitats such as woodland floors. It can grow from a height of approximately four inches (10 cm) to one foot (about 30 cm) in soil of a light to medium density. To thrive, the soil must be moist but not waterlogged. Otherwise an unhealthy yellow tinge on the leaves might result. When in an ideal environment, it will have little difficulty propagating itself as it is a hermaphroditic and self-fertilizing plant.

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Common wood-sorrel have a variety of uses and are sometimes used as a food source or for medicinal purposes. The leaves have a sour or lemon-type flavor while the flowers are more neutral in taste and are commonly used in salads and soups. A simple common wood-sorrel bread spread may have leaves that are minced and then mixed with butter and other spices. It may also have its leaves brewed as a tea.

Ingesting the leaves has been found to reduce symptoms of nausea, soothe sore throats, and alleviate fevers. Common wood-sorrel leaves can also subdue thirst, prompting individuals on long hikes to chew them. In addition, when brewed into a tea and drunk, the leaves may assuage stomach aches and cramps.

Individuals who consume common wood-sorrel should be aware that in very large amounts the plant causes oxalate poisoning. This may produce physical discomfort and difficulty in digestion, though it is generally not a concern for persons with a varied diet, and is fatal only in extremely rare cases. It should be noted that young children may be more susceptible than adults, and so persons preparing edibles with this plant should exercise caution.

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