Seen Sorrel Cry?

Redwood sorrel exudes water when highly hydrated at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
Redwood sorrel exudes water when highly hydrated at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

They were perfectly placed drops of water on the outer edge of each redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana) leaflet. At first, I thought that I was just seeing drops of fog that had not yet evaporated. Then, I realized that these water drops were coming out of the redwood sorrel leaves.

It looks like the plant is crying, and maybe it is, but scientists call this completely natural process guttation. When plants have access to lots of water in the soil, sometimes the water pressure builds up inside the roots, stems, and leaves, causing leakage of water out the top of the plant. This guttation doesn’t hurt the plant and in redwood sorrel it is quite beautiful!

Have you seen this phenomenon before? Check your lawn one of these days and look for water drops sitting just at the top of each grass blade because it just might be crying! Then go find it in the redwood forest and rest assured that the flora are well hydrated.

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About Emily Burns


Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California, Berkeley.

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