IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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This adventive perennial plant consists of a rosette of basal leaves, from which occasional flowering stalks are produced. The rosette of basal leaves typically spans about 4-6" across, while the flowering stalks are about ¾–1½' tall and more or less erect. A full-sized basal leaf is about 3" long and 1" across (including the petiole, which is about as long as the leaf blade). It is hastate in shape (i.e., arrowhead-shaped, but with spreading basal lobes), hairless, and smooth along the margins. The leaf is usually broadest above the middle, while the small basal lobes are often rounded, rather than pointed. The slender flowering stalks are angular or ridged, terminating in a panicle with spike-like racemes of tiny flowers. The few leaves that occur on these stalks are alternate, lanceolate or linear, sessile, and greatly reduced in size.  Because Sheep Sorrel is a dioecious species, the flowers of a plant are either all-male or all-female. Each flower is about 1/12" across and consists of 6 sepals and no petals. A male flower has 6 stamens, while a female flower has a pistil with a white tripartite style. Each division of the style is itself divided into long narrow lobes and has a frilly appearance. The sepals are initially green, but become red or reddish brown while the flowers are in bloom and the achenes ripen. The 3 inner sepals do not develop membranous wings as they mature, unlike other Sorrel species. The achene of a female flower is reddish to yellowish brown and 3-angled, tapering to a point at both ends. Its surface is more granular than shiny. The surrounding sepals are about the same length as the achene, but they do not fully enclosed it. The root system consists of a taproot that is shallow and slender, and long rhizomes that snake out in all directions. This plant often forms vegetative colonies.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers


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