red sorrel foliage

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

Updated: March 3, 2023

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.


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

Lawn care practices

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

Lawn Care

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. 

Manage Weeds Without Chemicals 

Chemical treatment in lawns

If you choose 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. 

Lawn Herbicides for Weed Control