We saw this Alpine Sorrel wildflower growing up on the tundra right near the gravelly trails and pull-offs along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park last summer.
Sorrel leaves were eaten by the Eskimos and Arctic explorers for their high vitamin C content. Animals will frequently graze on the plants. Sorrel comes from the German word sour.
Alpine Sorrel grows in dense tufts, with stems 10-20 cm high. Both flowering stems and leaf stalks are somewhat reddish. Its leaves are kidney-shaped and somewhat fleshy, on stalks from the basal part of the stem. Flowers are small, green and later reddish, and are grouped in an open upright cluster. The fruit is a small nut, encircled by a broad wing which finally turns red. Forming dense, red tufts, the plant is easily recognized.
The first photograph shows the Alpine Sorrel close up. The second photograph gives you a better idea as to what the entire plant looks like.
Have you ever seen an Alpine Sorrel up on the tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park?