Mountain Sorrel (Oxyria Digyna): Arctic-Alpine Perennial Herbaceous Plant

The arctic-alpine plants have changed significantly due to climate change and the Pleistocene ice ages. Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel) is a widespread arctic-alpine perennial herbaceous plant found in tundra habitats throughout the northern hemisphere.

It includes Eurasia and almost all of Arctic Native America, as well as the mountain of southern Russia, southern Europe, the Himalayas, and western America.

The macrofossils dated to about 3 million years ago have been found in the Canadian Arctic. It grows in various mesotundra environments, including ruins with small or no development. Let’s find out more about it!

Mountain Sorrel (At a Glance):

Parameters Details
Scientific nameOxyria digyna
Root typeTap root
Height4 to 12 inches
Soil typeStony, sandy, and nitrogen riched
Soil moistureMedium or high
Soil pH5.5-6.8
Sun exposureFull sun or semi shade
Suitable weatherCold, moderate heat
Bloom colorGreenish red
Bloom TimeJune-August
Seed colorReddish or pink
BenefitsHost plant, medicinal herb, attract arctic pollinators.

What is a Mountain Sorrel?

Oxyria digyna (mountain sorrel) is a perennial herb of the family Polygonaceae. Sorrel is a Greek word, and it means sour. It is a truly “good” arctic plant, differing from the place in the leaves’ size and the inflorescences’ height.

Mountain sorrel may give one or two leaves to the intrepid alpine wanderer. This tasty and hardy plant grows through the tip of a strong and durable root.

Anyway, there is some considerable difficulty regarding this plant. It is unsuitable for hybridization due to too many small delicate flowers in its inflorescence.

Why Is It Called Mountain Sorrels?

Both flowers and other plants that thrive in the arctic usually have specific unique properties that let them withstand cold or heat. Also, it allows them to survive in extreme situations where other flowers would not have the slightest chance.

A mountain flower is rare and beautiful because it grows in little water and rocky soil. Also, it grows in conditions that seem tough to live at such heights and places that remain frozen for a long time most of the day. Nature has created flowers that may thrive in such situations, so these are more special.

Plants that survive in those conditions form roots that run between the rocks to withstand the site’s humidity when the ice melts in summer. Moreover, the roots absorb water and let it bloom again.

Another feature you can see with the naked eye is that the plant grows very close together to protect each other. Their leaves, stems, and flowers have tough fluff. Also, they develop roots to grow even in open places and use low residual soil moisture.

Moreover, roots allow flowers to bloom in the summer each year when the conditions are more favorable. The sorrel growing in the mountain has the same characteristics as mentioned above. That’s why it is called a mountain sorrel.

Where Do Mountain Sorrels Grow?

Most tundra floras are established in the northern hemisphere and are mostly recognized in North America and Europe. It has a regional arctic-alpine allocation with a wide geographic range.

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Anyway, mountain sorrel is located in the arctic tundra at 83°. In terms of North America, it is available in the south, near Arizona. There are only two species of the genus Oxyria worldwide.

Mountain Sorrel

Another species Oxyria sinensis, grows in the Himalayas. On the Norway coast, mountain sorrel was discovered in a 12,600-year-old soil layer.

Therefore, it is one of the first plants in the Ice Age glaciers. Yet, another riff is that this species survived the Ice Age through small areas exposed to ice.

How Long Does It Take to Grow Mountain Sorrel?

Generally, mountain sorrels are propagated with seeds. Seeds are sown in the spring and germinate 14 days after planting, and within 35 to 40 days, they mature as a baby sorrel. 

When the seeds are ripe, it sprouts after a few days. Mountain sorrel seeds are mature in July-August. Their seeds disperse through air or water and fall into the lower land (sandy, loamy, heavy clay and well drained) during early summer or spring.

How Do You Identify a Mountain Sorrel?

Mountain sorrel is an exciting plant in the Polygonaceae family. This perennial plant grows to around 0.5 m by 0.3 m. It is resistant to zone 2 (UK) and frost insensitive.

It blooms from June to August. Moreover, the seeds ripen from July to August. Flowers are bisexual (have both female and male). Now, let’s look at some features to identify a mountain sorrel.

Physical Appearance

This perennial herbaceous plant has a long, thick, fleshy taproot and a branched corolla. It has several erect stems which are 5 to 50 cm long, glabrous, often with reddish, highly acrid juice.

Leaves are basal, rounded to reniform, tips slightly wavy, smooth, leaflets 1 to 5 cm wide. Leaf segments are 4 to 8 cm long, petioles uniform, 1 or absent, brown or reddish. Leave sheaths are isolated and oblique.

Inflorescence of rounded flowers on a dense, narrow raceme 5-15 cm long. The perianth is reddish or greenish and 4 segmented, 1.5 to 2.5 mm long. Also, the flower contains r stamens 6 and 4 sepals.


Mountain sorrel generally grows on wet rocky outcrops, slopes and escarpments, streams, and snowfields throughout the arctic and alpine. They are common throughout native America, except rare in the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Mountain Sorrels Adaptations

In the mountain, the condition is challenging for a plant to withstand. By the system of nature, plant form some physiological changes to adapt to adverse conditions. Now, find out the way how a mountain sorrel adapts.

Dense growing pattern

Mountain sorrels generally grow close to each other. It protects them from wilting in the wind. Also, growing closer to each other protects them from the heavy cold by accumulating heat from the ground.

Lower heat use efficiency

Mountain sorrels have a remarkable ability like other arctic plants. They can grow under a layer of ice. Also, they can produce their food by photosynthesis under low light and temperature.

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Due to their short growth period, most tundra plants are perennials. The mountain sorrel is also a perennial plant. They spend many years collecting and storing nutrients during each seed production season.

Leaf characteristics

Mountain sorrel has small leaves to withstand wind. Also, they have thin, needle-shaped leaves, which help conserve moisture.


Because of the hard layer of ice at the bottom, the tundra is also called permafrost. Mountain sorrel develops tap roots. These shallow roots are not as deep as regular roots, but they allow the plant to absorb food and attach itself to the soil.

As a result, you can find lichens, bushes, mosses, and flowers in this area, but you will not see a tall tree. Trees need deep roots, and permafrost destroys those roots.

How Much Sun Does Mountain Sorrels Need?

As we said earlier, mountain sorrels produce seeds in July-August and are sown in the spring. It means they are sun-loving plants.

They need partial or full sun to grow in the mountain. In the summer there is plenty of sun in th mountains. So, they grow up and reproduce by that time.

On the other hand, there is not enough sunlight in the winter, but mountain sorrel can withstand this situation. That means mountain sorrel can grow in low and partial sunlight.

Are Mountain Sorrels Edible?

In simple, the answer is yes. We can eat mountain sorrel in a sufficient amount. We can take mountain sorrel leaves cooked or raw. In terms of raw use, they are a good addition to salad ​​​​​​​and excellent seasoning in casseroles.

The leaves can be fermented into sauerkraut for winter use. You can eat their leaves and stems by cooking with seal oil as a good source of vitamin C. Sorrel leaves are taken with tea as a supplement in some countries.

Mountain Sorrel

You can make sweet juice thickened with a little potato flour or rice. With their leaves, we can make pickles and chutney.

A note to remember: The leaves of mountain sorrel have oxalic acid and a strong flavor. The amount is outstanding in small amounts, but large amounts of oxalic acid can block calcium from entering the body and lead to nutrient deficiencies.

If you boil the leaves, the amount of oxalic acid decreases. People prone to rheumatism, gout, kidney stones, arthritis, or acidity should be cautious before taking it.

Mountain Sorrels Taste

Mountain sorrel is a significant source of vitamin C, but it is sour, as it is named. Also, it has some sharp flavor due to oxalic acid. When cooked, they become fantastic curry.

Mountain Sorrels Uses

Mountain sorrel is primarily famous for its medicinal value. It will improve your eyesight and cure skin disease. Also, it supplies essential vitamin C for your health and has numerous medical uses.

People who want to lose weight can take sorrel tea. Moreover, you can add sorrel with stew and soup for extra flavor. You can often mix sorrel with chicken, potato, and other ingredients.

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Mountain sorrel has another interesting use. This reddish or brown plant can produce a good-quality red dye. Even you can prepare graded food color from sorrel.

What Animals Eat Mountain Sorrels?

Mountain sorrel is a perennial herb grown in the arctic tundra. It only has a few leaves to encourage herbivores. Sometimes deer and sheep eat them when they are hungry.

An interesting fact is that the color of the mountain sorrel attracts pollinators like bumble bees and butterflies. They have some pests from the Aphididae family. Other animals like a snail, salamanders, banana slugs, bobcats, and ratoons feed on mountain sorrel.

What Did Native Americans Use Mountain Sorrels For?

In native America, mountain sorrel is a common food item. Most of them use this plant for a delicious salad. Also, it is considered a traditional food in the Inuit.

The northwest tribes take it with dried fish. This plant is quite popular in Greenland, Canada, Norway, and Alaska. People eat leaves and roots as food supplements.

Is Mountain Sorrels a Medicinal Plant? Medicinal Use Of Mountain Sorrels

Yes, mountain sorrel is a medicinal plant. Let’s have a look at their medicinal value.

Prevent sores

Sorrel contains oligomeric and flavonoids which is famous as a pain-removing agent. It prevents sores and aches.

Improve eyesight

Mountain sorrel is a good source of Vitamin A. Vitamin A prevents night blindness; therefore, sorrel improves your eyesight.

Reduce weight

Sorrel salad has some antioxidants and fat-burning materials. It boosts your immunity and burns extra fat.

Lower skin diseases

Mountain sorrel contains more vitamin C, which is suitable for skin diseases. That’s why some people use it as a face pack.

Prevent cancer

Mountain sorrel contains oxalic acid, a significant component in preventing cancer. That’s why doctors suggest regularly taking sorrel tea to eliminate cancer.

Reduce blood pressure

Sorrel leaves contain antioxidants that regulate normal blood flow and remove bad cholesterol. This will lower blood pressure in your body.

Heal wounds

Sorrel has anti-inflammatory properties, binding blood types faster from injured areas. So, sorrel is excellent for healing wounds.

However, mountain sorrel has many other medicinal values. It detoxifies our body, treats hypertension, improves milk flow in pregnant women, and improves digestive system and kidney health.


Where to find mountain sorrel?

Mountain sorrel is highly available, and the arctic tundra. Also, it has a circumboreal distribution throughout the Sierra Nevada, the Cascade, and the Alps. Also, it has some distribution in the Himalayas. It is usually found in meadows, slopes, snow-covered areas, and streams.

What does sorrel soup taste like?

Sorrel soup has a spicy taste due to the presence of oxalic acid. It can be complementary to mint. Also, they are used as a dressing or soup and tart-like lemon.

How long do Mountain Sorrels live?

As a perennial herb, mountain sorrel generally lives for at least two years or more. They are sown late in the spring and bloom in June-September.


Mountain sorrel is an enhanced beauty in the arctic. Also, it has some food and medicinal value. They are delicious to eat but take them in adequate amounts.

Also, think about its existence. Due to natural calamities and environmental hazards, they are decreasing the number. We must preserve them for our betterment.

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