Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Honeysuckle bush for San Antonio, Tx
June 14, 2009 - I'm looking for a gift for my brother, living in San Antonio. He loves the native honeysuckle that we both remember from our childhoods. I think I'd like to get him a honeysuckle bush rather than ...
view the full question and answer

Source for Bumelia lanuginosa in Austin
February 24, 2005 - PLEASE HELP! I'm trying to plant several trees called Bumelia lanuginosa (synonym: Sideroxylon langinosum). The common names include but are not limited to: Ironwood, Chittamwood, Gum Elastic, Wooly...
view the full question and answer

Where to find azaleas in St. Louis
June 02, 2010 - Where can I find reasonably priced Azalea shrubs in St. Louis in the red, orange color that are inexpensive? Precise enough? LOL
view the full question and answer

Source for seeds of any species in the genus Choisya
May 20, 2009 - Please let me know of any commercial or other sources for seed of any species in the genus Choisya. Only a small quantity would be needed. This seed is for research purposes and is urgently needed. ...
view the full question and answer

Rain garden plants at the April Plant Sale
March 31, 2015 - In answering the question about "rain garden" plants on March 20, 2010, you offered a list of plants. Which of these will be offered at the spring sale coming up on April 10-12? Thanks.
view the full question and answer

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