En Español

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

Looking for a source for Dollarweed in St. Augustine FL.
May 13, 2010 - I need a source of Dollar Weed Seed and/or plants. The back yard has been regraded to correct direction of rain water drainage.
view the full question and answer

Resources for a green roof project from Wayne PA
April 14, 2013 - Hello! I am researching a project to create a native wildflower/ turf mix for a green roof. I would ideally like to grow it as a sod mat, and then install it in rolls. I am currently working as an i...
view the full question and answer

Seed source for thistles in San Marcos TX
April 07, 2010 - Where can I buy thistle seeds?
view the full question and answer

Where to find Yarrow for sale in the area of Ft. Worth TX?
May 05, 2011 - I'm very fond of the native plant called "Yarrow." Where might I find this in the Fort Worth area, and what are the tips for growing it. Seems like I saw it in one of the gardens at the LBJ Wildf...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants for Mission, TX
August 11, 2005 - Last week I visited my uncle who is head of a church in Mission, TX. The church owns an empty 2 to 3 acre lot, where they hope to build a school someday. However, that day is at least 10 to 15 years...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center