Trailside Treasure: Common Wood Sorrel

If you have been hiking lately you may have noticed this small but very beautiful flower blooming along the trail. Common wood sorrel is found throughout New England, as well as westward to Minnesota and throughout the Appalachian Mountains south to North Carolina and Tennessee. The small flower is found in both hardwood and spruce-fir forests. It can be identified by its clover-like three-lobed compound leaves found at the base of the plant and the solitary white and pink five-petaled flower which is supported by a leafless stalk less than 4 inches tall. Wood sorrel has been eaten and used medicinally by humans for thousands of years. Native Americans used to use the leaves to relieve nausea, fever, mouth and throat sores and other ailments. Today wood sorrel is still used in recipes from salads to omelets. Its slightly sour taste, caused by the presence of oxalic acid, makes the plant toxic if eaten in large doses. Wood sorrel will be in bloom into August so if you missed it on your last hike keep an eye out for these small flowers along the trail. However, if you experience a craving for a wood sorrel salad please keep in mind the Leave No Trace principles of leaving only footprints and taking only photos. Happy Hiking!