Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Monday - May 17, 2010

From: Jacksonville, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Trying to find a plant called sheepshire
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hey there Mr. Smarty Plants, just one question. As a child in east Tennessee, we picked plants called sheepshire that looked like small clover leafs and had small yellow blooms. One could chew these leaves and they had a bitter-like taste. Is this true sheepshire or something else? Thanks.

ANSWER:

I think you must mean woodsorrel, Oxalis spp.  The plants of this genus have clover-like leaves and a sour taste due to the oxalic acid that they contain.  Here are four species of Oxalis with yellow flowers that are native to Tennessee:

Oxalis dillenii (slender yellow woodsorrel)

Oxalis grandis (great yellow woodsorrel)

Oxalis priceae (tufted yellow woodsorrel)

Oxalis stricta (common yellow oxalis)

There is another plant called sheep's sorrel (sort of close to sheepshire), Rumex acetosella, a native of Europe, and a native one, Rumex hastatulus (heartwing sorrel), that I remember as a child in East Texas chewing on the stem and that we called the plant "sourweed".  Here's an article about both Oxalis and Rumex.

Delena Tull in Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest says, "Rumex hastatulus and R. acetosella, both commonly called sheep sorrel, have a pickle-sour flavor similar to that of Oxalis."

Oxalic acid is the compound in both Oxalis and Rumex that causes the sour flavor. In small portions it is harmless but large amounts can be toxic. Rumex spp. and Oxalis spp. can be toxic, but only if large quantities are consumed. Also, Rumex spp. can be toxic to livestock in large quantities.

So, what is true sheepshire?  I don't really know. In the references I found it sounded as if they were describing either Oxalis sp. or Rumex sp.  It seems to be a term that refers to sour-tasting weeds that you chew in the spring.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Rumex hastatulus

 

 


Oxalis dillenii

Oxalis grandis

Oxalis priceae

Oxalis stricta

 

 

More Seed and Plant Sources Questions

Source of wildflower seeds indigenous to Dallas area
February 21, 2003 - Where can I get wild flower seed indigenous to the N. Texas (Dallas) area?
view the full question and answer

Source for blue phlox in Whitehouse TX
July 12, 2009 - Where can I purchase blue phlox ground cover? I live ten minutes from Tyler,Tx
view the full question and answer

Resources for native plants and landscaping in El Paso, TX
January 24, 2006 - I live in El Paso, Texas, and want to know more about flowers and other native plants and landscaping in this specific geographical area. I would like information on particular plants that are suita...
view the full question and answer

Plants For Sale
November 30, 2008 - I have to move out of my home to take care of my mother. I have various plants in the small yard (6 mo old). If I dig them up and pot them, is there someone who will buy them? Thanks,Pat
view the full question and answer

Inoculant for bluebonnets
October 08, 2007 - Where can I find inoculant for my bluebonnets? I have searched high and low. Native American Seeds does not carry it. I can buy it for soybeans in a huge quantity, but am not sure that this is the ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.