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Wood Sorrel

Olaxis acetosella

Wood Sorrel flower

A pretty woodland wildflower, with delicate white flowers that sit amongst distinctive citrus-green leaves. Once used in cooking for its lemony taste – but don’t eat too much raw as it can upset the stomach!

How to spot it

A low, creeping herb, with long-stalked, light green, trefoil-shaped leaves. The flowers have five white petals, veined in lilac or purple.

Where it grows

In woodland, on hedgerows, banks and in other moist, usually shaded, habitats throughout the British Isles.

Best time to see

In flower April to May, and sometimes a second time in summer.

How’s it doing?

Remaining widespread throughout the U.K., it is one of the few species able to survive the deep shade of conifer plantations.

A patch of Wood Sorrel in a woodlands

3 things you might not know

  • It acts as a weathervane: the leaves fold up before and during rain and when it gets dark.
  • Its little flowers can often be seen in the forefront of works of art by the 15th Century Italian painter, Fra Angelico (c.1387-1455).
  • It was said that St. Patrick used its trifoliate leaves to illustrate the Holy Trinity, since when it has been dedicated to him. Thus, it is one of the plants known as the ‘shamrock’, and used to symbolise Ireland.

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