En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Trying to find a plant called sheepshire

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

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

Sources for native plants astragalus and acerola
May 12, 2005 - Where can I get a plant of astragalus as well as acerola?
view the full question and answer

Native trees with beautiful fall foliage
November 18, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, This fall I have been seeing a tree with beautiful red leaves all over Austin and someone told me that these are Chinese tallow trees. Can you tell me where I might buy one of...
view the full question and answer

Sources of information for design of prairie meados in Georgia
January 25, 2006 - Dear Ms. Smarty Plants, I am designing a prairie meadow in Covington GA (Zone 7) at the edge of piedmont and coastal ecosystems, primarily lower piedmont. I am trying to restore a 1/2-acre site over ...
view the full question and answer

Commercial source of Malus x arnoldiana in Massachusetts
April 13, 2006 - Looking for a commercial source for Malus x arnoldiana, a Massachusetts native apple/crabapple. I work for a Massachusetts conservation land trust with an interest in wildlife habitat and mast and nat...
view the full question and answer

Source for air plant from Warwick RI
April 23, 2012 - Would you know of any store in Rhode Island that would sell the air plant (tillandsia plant)? I've been searching around and no luck! I would appreciate the help!! Thank you and take care
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center