Woodsorrell (_see Also Docks_)
This elegant little herb, called also French Sorrel, Rabbits' food,
Shamrock, and Wood Sour (Oxalis acetosella), is abundant
throughout our woods, and in other moist, shady places. It belongs
to the natural order of Geraniums, and bears the provincial names of
Sour trefoil, Cuckoo's bread, or Gowk's-meat, and Stubwort (from
growing about the stubs of hewn trees). Its botanical title is got from
the Greek word oxus, sha
p, or acid, because of its penetrating
sour taste. This is due to the acid oxalate of potash which it contains
abundantly, in common with the Dock Sorrel, and the Garden
By reason of this chemical salt being present in combination with
less leafy matter than in the other plants which are akin to it, the
Wood Sorrel makes a lighter and more palatable salad.
In olden days the Monks named this pretty little  woodland
plant Alleluia, because it blossoms between Easter and
Whitsuntide, when the Psalms--from the 113th to the 117th,
inclusive--which end with the aspiration, Hallelujah! were sung.
St. Patrick is said to have shown on the ternate leaf of the Wood
Sorrel to his rude audience the possibility of a Trinity in Unity.
The herb has been long popular as a Simple for making a fever
drink, which is thought to be somewhat sedative to the heart, and for
helping to cure scurvy. Also, it has proved useful against
Towards assisting to digest, by their free acid, the immature fibre of
young flesh meats, the Wood Sorrel leaves are commonly eaten as a
dressing with veal, and lamb. But too habitual use of such a salad or
sauce has led to the formation of gouty crystals (oxalate of lime) in
the urine, with considerable irritation of the kidneys. Externally, the
bruised leaves are of excellent service for cleansing and stimulating
foul sores and ulcers, being first macerated in a Cabbage leaf with
This familiar harbinger of Spring, with its three delicate leaflets on
a long stalk, and its tiny white flowers, having purple veins like
those of the Wood Anemone, bears the fanciful name of Fairy-bells in
Fra Angelico placed the claret-stained flowers in the foreground of
his pictures representing the Crucifixion. After the doctrine of
signatures, because of its shape like a heart, the leaf of the Wood
Sorrel was formerly esteemed as a cordial medicine. It was called in
Latin Panis Cuculi, meaning the Cuckoo's bread and cheese.
The leaves, when bruised, make with sugar a capital conserve which
is refreshing to a fevered stomach, or, if boiled in milk, they form an
agreeable sub-acid whey.  Twenty pounds of the fresh plant
will yield four ounces of the oxalate of potash, commonly known as
salt of lemons or salt of sorrel, which is often used for taking ink
stains out of linen. Francus, an old classical author, concluded by
experiment that the herb is of value (cordis vires reparare) to
recruit the energies of the heart, and (anginum abigere) to dispel
the quinsy. Its infusion makes an excellent anti-putrescent gargle.
There is also a yellow variety of the Wood Sorrel.