Sheep’s sorrel, Rumex acetosella

One of the things that distinguishes sheep’s sorrel from other sorrel varieties is its spear-like leaves. Sheep’s sorrel grows on rocks and on sandy ground, and brings a vibrant red to its otherwise fairly barren growth environment.


Sheep’s sorrel has a salty taste, and in addition to its food uses it can also be used to make a natural dye. The colours of dye obtained from the plant are greenish grey and black. When ground, the seeds can also be used to make dye. This red dye can be used to colour woollen yarn, for example.

Something to try

Dyeing woollen yarn grey

100 g dried or 1 kg of fresh sheep’s sorrel

10 g of alum (a binding agent that helps the dye to be retained by the yarn)

100 g woollen yarn


First prepare the dye.

Chop the sheep’s sorrel into small pieces and put in a saucepan.

Add enough water to just cover the sorrel.

Boil for an hour.

Pour the mixture through a sieve to remove the plant material.

Add enough cold water to give 3-5 litres of dye.

Add the alum to the dye and stir well.

Wet the woollen yarn with lukewarm water and add the dye.

Slowly bring the mixture to boiling point over a low heat, stirring occasionally for about an hour.

After that, rinse the yarn thoroughly and allow it to dry in a shaded place.

Gathering the plants

Sheep’s sorrel grows on rocks, in crevices, on railway yards and grassy terraces, on roadsides and in dry fields.

Other interesting facts

Sheep’s sorrel is sometimes considered a difficult weed, because it can spread over large areas very quickly. One plant can produce up to a thousand seeds, which are spread effectively by the wind and animals.


Sheep’s sorrel contains oxalic acid, so should be consumed with caution and only in small amounts. People with kidney conditions should not consume sheep’s sorrel in any form.

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