red sorrel foliage

Red sorrel (Rumex acetosella). Photo: Theodore Webster, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

Updated: April 16, 2021

General description

Sorrel, also called sheep sorrel is a perennial broadleaf weed. The leaves are 1-3 inches long and arrow-shaped.

Growth habit

Young plants form a rosette of foliage near the ground. Flowers are red or yellow and bloom on spikes.

Reproduction 

Sorrel spreads by seed and rhizomes.

flowering red sorrel
Flowering red sorrel. Photo: Betty Marose

Conditions that favor growth

Found in neglected, infertile lawns. It is also an indication of acidic soil.

stand of red sorrel in bloom
A stand of red sorrel that has gone to seed

Management in lawns

Cultural lawn care practices

Maintain healthy, dense turf that can compete and prevent weed establishment.

Mechanical management

Hand pulling or using an appropriate weeding tool are the primary means of mechanical weed control in lawns. This is a viable option at the beginning of an infestation and on young weeds. Hand pulling when the soil is moist makes the task easier. Weeds with tap roots like dandelions or have a basal rosette (leaves clustered close to the ground) like plantain are easier to pull than weeds such as Bermudagrass (wiregrass) or creeping Charlie (ground ivy) that spread with stolons or creeping stems that root along the ground.

Chemical treatment in lawns

Herbicides should be used as a last resort because of the potential risks to people, animals, and the environment. Be aware of these lawn herbicide precautions first.

If you chose this option, spot treat weeds with a liquid, selective, postemergent, broadleaf weed killer applied when weeds are actively growing. Look for a product with one or more of the following active ingredients: 
2, 4-D, MCPP (mecoprop), Dicamba* or Triclopyr.

*Do not spray herbicides containing dicamba over the root zone of trees and shrubs. Roots can absorb the product possibly causing plant damage. Refer to the product label for precautions.