This member of the dock family, known in Scotland as Dockens, is a common sight in heaths and grassy places throughout Scotland, and grows even on the poorest of soils.
It has narrow, arrow-shaped leaves which are up to 4 cm long, and have 2 upward pointing lobes at their base. Each grows on a distinct petiole, or leaf-stalk.
The flowers grow in clusters up a leafless, branched inflorescence. They appear rusty red in colour and grow in a male and female form. The male carries the stamens, the female carries the ovary. These unisexual flowers grow on separate plants. The male flowers are redder than the female. Each flower is 2mm long.
Sheep Sorrel, also known as Red Sorrel or Field Sorrel has been used in herbal medicine since time immemorial. Being a docken, it can soothe nettle stings, and Julius Caesar claimed it cured his soldiers of scurvy when they landed in on Britain’s shores. Martin Martin, a seventeenth century physician and author of A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, wrote that he advised St Kildan to eat Sorrel in order to lose weight. This remedy had dramatic effects within a few days, or so he claims.