Rumex acetosella - L.
Sheep Sorrel
Other English Common Names: Common Sheep Sorrel, Sheep-sorrel
Other Common Names: common sheep sorrel
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Rumex acetosella L. (TSN 20934)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.149845
Element Code: PDPGN0P020
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Buckwheat Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Polygonales Polygonaceae Rumex
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Rumex acetosella
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Changed: 22Mar1994
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (13Oct2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (SNA), Alaska (SNA), Arizona (SNA), Arkansas (SNA), California (SNA), Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Florida (SNA), Georgia (SNR), Hawaii (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), Nevada (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (SNA), Oregon (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Carolina (SNA), South Dakota (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Utah (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (SNA)
Canada Alberta (SNA), British Columbia (SNA), Labrador (SNA), Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Newfoundland Island (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (SNA), Saskatchewan (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AKexotic, ALexotic, ARexotic, AZexotic, CAexotic, COexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, FLexotic, GA, HIexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, LAexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MSexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NDexotic, NEexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NMexotic, NVexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, OKexotic, ORexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SCexotic, SDexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic, WYexotic
Canada ABexotic, BCexotic, LBexotic, MBexotic, NBexotic, NFexotic, NSexotic, ONexotic, PEexotic, QCexotic, SKexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
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Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
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Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: Medium/Low
Rounded I-Rank: Medium
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Although negative impacts of this species are not great (sometimes forms dense colonies by adventitious shoots from widely spreading roots and rhizomes, poisons livestock and sometimes native ungulates), it is widespread across the country and is spreading at a moderate rate, particularly in disturbed areas. The plant can be prolific and become a nuisance if left untended, but control is costly and difficult with control measures impacting native grassland species.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Low/Insignificant
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: High
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: High
I-Rank Review Date: 26Jun2006
Evaluator: J. Cordeiro
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: This species is native to Eurasia (Agricultural Research Service USDA, 1970).

Download "An Invasive Species Assessment Protocol: Evaluating Non-Native Plants for their Impact on Biodiversity". (PDF, 1.03MB)
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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: This is one of the earliest non-indigenous plants introduced into the United States that likely arrived from Europe as a seed contaminant (Mack and Erneberg, 2002).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: It has become naturalized throughout the U.S. (Agricultural Research Service USDA, 1970; Esser, 1995; USDA, 2006).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Low/Insignificant

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Little is known about the effect of this species on ecosystem processes, but considering it does have some significant effects on community structure and individual natives, it is likely the species may have limited negative effects on ecosystem processes.

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Sheep sorrel is an introduced rhizomatous perennial herb that sometimes forms dense colonies by adventitious shoots from widely spreading roots and rhizomes (Hitchcock and Cronquist, 1973; Great Plains Flora Association, 1986). This assumed to negatively impact community structure.

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Sheep sorrel is an introduced rhizomatous perennial herb that sometimes forms dense colonies by adventitious shoots from widely spreading roots and rhizomes (Hitchcock and Cronquist, 1973; Great Plains Flora Association, 1986). On Fire Island, New York, this species has come to form the dominant herbaceous layer under low thicket vegetation (Dowhan and Rozsa, 1989).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Low significance
Comments: This species is known to poison livestock, and possibly native ungulates, if sufficient quantities are consumed (Czarapata, 2005; Uva et al., 1997; Esser, 1995). Mule deer are known to graze on sheep sorrel in California and Ohio (Krueger and Donart, 1974; Nixon et al., 1970), but effects have not been studied.

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: No direct evidence is available on the impact of this species on native species of conservation concern.

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: High

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: This species is distributed throughout the United States and southern Canada (Uva et al., 1997) occurring in every U.S. state as a non-native (USDA, 2006).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Moderate significance
Comments: Sheep sorrel is classified as a noxious weed in 23 states in Mitich and Kyser (1992) but only listed as a noxious weed in two states in USDA (2006). This indicates that although the species is introduced widely, the proportion of its range negatively impacting biodiversity is a much smaller fraction of that total range.

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High significance
Comments: It is conservatively estimated that over half of the 81 ecoregions in the U.S. have been invaded by Rumex acetoxella with the species occupying every U.S. state (Cordeiro, pers. obs. June 2006 based on TNC, 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Typical habitat includes disturbed areas, pastures, meadows, roadsides; but the species does not tolerate shade. It persists in areas of poor drainage and low soil fertility; in gravelly sterile fields (Agricultural Research Service USDA, 1970). It also is tolerant of forested communities (often as a common understory species) throughout temperate North America (Esser, 1995). This species can spread extensively, especially on acidic and nutrient-deficient soils (Czarapata, 2005).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Medium

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: Although already widespread, this species is likely only continuing to spread into new portions of its existing range, as it already occupies much of the U.S.

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Low significance
Comments: At least 23 states in the U.S. have officially declared sheep sorrel as a noxious or prohibited weed (Mitich and Kyser, 1992). In addition, it is listed as in Uva et al. (1997) as an invasive weed in the northeast and in Whitson et al. (1996) weeds of the west. Local expansion continues, however.

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High/Moderate significance
Comments: The plant is wind pollinated and seed is dispersed by wind and insects (Houssard and Escarre, 1991).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Moderate significance
Comments: Although the species is widespread, it is still expanding rapidly within its non-native range in the U.S. so local range expansion is ranked moderate significance.

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Low significance
Comments: This species is listed as an "invasive plant of lesser concern" in Czarapata (2005). Typically, however, the species is a weed of turfgrass, landscapes, and nursery crops. It is often found on, but not limited to, acid soils and areas with poor drainage, low nitrogen, and little competition from other species (Uva et al., 1997; Agricultural Research Service USDA, 1970). Sheep sorrel is generally found in open, unshaded areas on disturbed sites, but may move into undisturbed sites when growing conditions are ideal (Escarre et al., 1994; Esser, 1995; Schramm, 1966). It is commonly found in old fields, annual grassland, and montane meadow communities (Esser, 1995). In Massachusetts, however, sheep sorrel was not present in the ground cover of most eastern white pine and red pine (Pinus resinosa) stands, but seeds were contained in soil samples from 1-to 80-year-old stands. In the laboratory soil-stored seeds from all stands germinated (Livingston and Allesio, 1968).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Medium/Low significance
Comments: In Alberta, Canada, sheep sorrel is a member of an 80-year-old white spruce (Picea glauca)-jack pine (Pinus banksiana)-feathermoss (Pleurozium spp.) community (Fyles, 1989), but typically it inhabits similar habitats in the U.S. elesewhere in its range.

16. Reproductive Characteristics:High significance
Comments: Rhizomes spread rapidly in tangles masses (Esser, 1995). Seeds germinate often in two periods- one in spring and one in early fall; and seeds remain viable in soil for ten to twenty years. Reproduction is by seeds and creeping horizontal roots that produce new shoots (Czarapata, 2005; Uva et al., 1997; Agricultural Research Service USDA, 1970; Esser, 1995). In Massachusetts sheep sorrel was not present in the ground cover of most eastern white pine and red pine (Pinus resinosa) stands, but seeds were contained in soil samples from 1-to 80-year-old stands. In the laboratory soil-stored seeds from all stands germinated (Livingston and Allesio, 1968). It colonizes rapidly by seed and may persist for 15 to 20 years through vegetative growth and propagation (Escarre et al., 1994).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: High

17. General Management Difficulty:High significance
Comments: This species is very difficult to eradicate (Agricultural Research Service USDA, 1970). Dicamba is generally an effective control on this species (Czarapata, 2005). It probably survives fire by sprouting from rhizomes and roots and regenerates from on-site buried seed (Esser, 1995). Repeat cultivation during dry weather gradually weakens rootstalks of sheep sorrel and several herbicides can selectively control sheep sorrel (Fitzsimmons and Burrill, 1993).

18. Minimum Time Commitment:High/Moderate significance
Comments: This species likely requires repeated treatment. Fitzsimmons and Burrill (1993) cited repeated cultivation over 4 years during dry weather weakens rootstalks and helps reduce infestations, but this is not applicable where native species impacts are a concern.

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Fitzsimmons and Burrill (1993) cited repeated cultivation over 4 years during dry weather weakens rootstalks and helps reduce infestations, but this is not applicable where native species impacts are a concern.

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Low significance
Comments: As this species frequently occurs on private land, particularly grasslands, some access issues will arise and cooperation with landownders for management will be necessary.
Authors/Contributors
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Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Agricultural Research Service. 1970. Common weeds of the United States. Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Washington, D.C. 463 pp.

  • Akerson, J. and K. Gounaris. 2000. Strategic plan for managing alien invasive vegetation: Colonial National Historic Park, Yorktown, Virginia. Report submitted to Colonial Natioanl Historic Park, National Park Service, Yorktown, Virginia, March 2000. 16 pp. + app.

  • Czarapata, E.J. 2005. Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest. An Illustrated Guide to Their Identification and Control. The University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, Wisconsin. 215 pp.

  • Dowhan, J.J. and R. Rozsa. 1989. Flora of fire island, Suffolk County, New York. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 116(3): 265-282.

  • Escarre, J., C. Houssard, and J.D. Thompson. 1994. An exper. study of the role of seedling density & neighbor relatedness in the persistence of Rumex acetosella in an old-field succession. Canadian Journal of Botany, 72(9): 1273-1281.

  • Esser, L.L. 1995. Rumex acetosella. In: USDA. 1995. Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available online: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/. Accessed: 15 June 2006.

  • Fitzsimmons, J.P. and L.C. Burrill. 1993. Red sorrel: Rumex acetosella L. Weeds, A Pacific Northwest Extension Publication, 446: unpaginated.

  • Fyles, J.W. 1989. Seed bank populations in upland coniferous forests in central Alberta. Canadian Journal of Botany, 67: 274-278.

  • Great Plains Flora Association (R.L. McGregor, coordinator; T.M. Barkley, ed., R.E. Brooks and E.K. Schofield, associate eds.). 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 1392 pp.

  • Hitchcock, C.L., and A. Cronquist. 1973. Flora of the Pacific Northwest: An Illustrated Manual. University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington. 730 pp.

  • Houssard, C. and J. Escarre. 1991. The effects of seed weight on growth and competitive ability of Rumex acetosella from two successional old-fields. Oecologia, 86(2): 236-242.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Krueger, W.C. and G.B. Donart. 1974. Relationship of soils to seasonal deer forage quality. Journal of Range Management, 27(2): 114-117.

  • Livingston, R.B. and M.L. Allessio. 1968. Buried viable seed in successional field and forest stands, Harvard Forest, Massachusetts. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 95(1): 58-69.

  • Mack, R.N. and M. Erneberg. 2002. The United States naturalized flora: largely the product of deliberate introductions. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 89(2): 176-189.

  • Meades, S.J. & Hay, S.G; Brouillet, L. 2000. Annotated Checklist of Vascular Plants of Newfoundland and Labrador. Memorial University Botanical Gardens, St John's NF. 237pp.

  • Mitich, L.W. and G.B. Kyser. 1992. Impact of exotic weeds in the United States. In: R.G. Lym (ed.) Proceedings of the Western Society of Weed Science; 1992 March 10-12; Salt Lake City, Utah. Western Society of Weed Science, 45: 86-93.

  • Nixon, C.M., M.W. McClain, and K.R. Russell. 1970. Deer food habits and range characteristics in Ohio. Journal of Wildlife Management, 34(4): 870-886.

  • Schramm, J.R. 1966. Plant colonization studies on black wastes from anthracite mining in Pennsylvania. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 56(1): 5-194.

  • USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA, NRCS). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70874-4490 USA. Available online: http://plants.usda.gov. Accessed: March 2006.

  • Uva, R.H., J.C. Neal, and J.M. DiTomaso. 1997. Weeds of the Northeast. Cornell University Press: Ithaca, New York. 397 pp.

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