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Oxyria digyna
Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Sub-alpine, alpine. Tundra, scree. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, July 2, 2004.

Oxyria digyna is often found high in the mountains near melting snows in rocky areas.  The plant has red to green flowers that are replaced by showy red/brown seed pods.  The massed, round, thick leaves (often with red tinges) are a common and picturesque sight in subalpine and alpine rock scree. 

Mountain Sorrel is related to the much larger Sorrels found in the foothills and canyons; some of the latter Sorrels are common around Anasazi sites.

Linnaeus named this species Rumex digynus in 1753, and in 1765 John Hill (1716-1775) placed it in a new genus, Oxyria.  Greek gives us both "Oxys" for "sour" and "aria" for "possession", thus "possessing sourness", alluding to the nice tangy sour taste of Sorrel leaves.  "Digyna", Greek for "two women", refers to "two carpels".

Oxyria digyna

Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Sub-alpine, alpine. Tundra, scree. Summer.
Spiller-Helmet Ridge, August 8, 2005.

Oxyria digyna can be dainty as in the above picture or robust, as in the picture at left, with numerous leaves and flower/seed stems.

 

Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Sub-alpine, alpine. Tundra, scree. Summer.
Kennebec Pass, July 18, 2006.
Sharkstooth Trail, June 25, 2008.

Plants have a myriad of minute red to green flowers and then a myriad of red/green/brown seed casings.

Oxyria digyna

Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Sub-alpine, alpine. Tundra, scree. Summer.
Base of Snowdon Peak, August 1, 2005.

Snow has just melted and long-stemmed Oxyria digyna leaves are unfolding to the sun for chlorophyll which will mask the red pigment.  A flower stalk is at the lower left corner.

Oxyria digyna

Oxyria digyna

Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Sub-alpine, alpine. Tundra, scree. Summer.
Spiller/Helmet Mountain Ridge, August 20, 2009 and Lake Hope Trail, September 20, 2011.

In the fall, chlorophyll retreats and varying shades of reds and yellows dominate.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Oxyria digyna