Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Dock - Rumex Sp.

Family: Polygonaceae - Buckwheat Family

"Habit: Annual to perennial herb; glabrous or papillate and hairy; rhizomed, stoloned, or generally from taproot with a short caudex; occasionally dioecious. Stem: prostrate, decumbent, or generally erect to ascending, often +- ridged, red-brown in fruit, nodes +- swollen. Leaf: generally basal and cauline, alternate, petioled except uppermost cauline; ocreae deciduous to persistent. Inflorescence: axillary or generally terminal, generally panicle-like. Flower: generally bisexual, bell-shaped, glabrous, green, +- pink, or red; perianth lobes 6, persistent, in fruit outer 3 +- inconspicuous, inner 3 enlarged, hardened, +- veiny, covering fruit, midrib of 1--3 often expanded into tubercle; stamens 6; stigmas 3, fringed. Fruit: achene, glabrous, +- black or dark brown to +- red.
Species In Genus: 190--200 species: +- worldwide, 63 in North America. Etymology: (Latin: sorrel) Note: Mature inner perianth lobes generally needed for identification. Species often hybridize." [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Rumex acetosa - Common Sorrel
  2. Rumex acetosella - sheep sorrel
  3. Rumex occidentalis (Syn. Rumex aquaticus) - western dock
  4. Rumex britannica - Greater water dock
  5. Rumex conglomeratus - clustered dock
  6. Rumex crispus - curled dock
  7. Rumex fueginus - golden dock
  8. Rumex obtusifolius - bitter dock
  9. Rumex triangulivalvis - willow dock
  10. Rumex transitorius - Pacific willow dock

Common Sorrel - Rumex acetosa


"Botanical assessment of this taxon in British Columbia has shown that Rumex acetosa is a rare introduction in BC that is known from only one site on the Saanich Penisula (Lomer pers. comm. 2012). There is a lag time between specimen re-identification and incorporation of that into the databases we use for mapping." [E-flora-1]

Sheep Sorrel - Rumex acetosella


Greater Water Dock - Rumex britannica

Status: Native [E-flora-4]

Clustered dock - Rumex conglomeratus

Yellow/Curly Dock - Rumex crispus

"Rumex crispus is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to October, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

Golden Dock - Rumex fueginus

Syn: R. fueginus = Rumex maritimus L. [E-flora]

Status: Native [E-flora]

Bitter Dock - Rumex obtusifolius

Family: Polygonaceae - Buckwheat Family

"Rumex obtusifolius is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower from Jun to October, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

Origin Status: Exotic
General: "Perennial herb from a large taproot; stems erect, solitary, simple (below the inflorescence), 60-120 cm tall, pimply and finely hairy."
Leaves: "Basal leaves widely oblong or widely egg-shaped, heart-shaped at the base, the margins often crisped, the blades 10-30 cm long, the stalks long; stem leaves alternate, several, similar to basal leaves but reduced upward."
Flowers: "Inflorescence of numerous flowers in a large, many-flowered panicle, 30-50 cm long; perianths greenish-brown, the segments with short, stout teeth on each margin; outer segments about 3 mm long, the ascending inner segments about 5 mm long, net-veined, the margins with 2-4 teeth and usually 1 of the 3 segments with a prominent, grain-like swelling."
Fruits: "Achenes, brown, smooth, shiny, about 2 mm long."
Habitat / Range
"Mesic to dry roadsides and disturbed areas in the lowland zone; frequent in SW BC, infrequent in SC BC, rare in the Queen Charlotte Islands; introduced from Eurasia." [IFBC-E-flora]
"It is a native of Europe but is now a common weed in this country, as far west as the plains." [EWP]


  • Acetosa oblongifolia (L.) A. Löve & D. Löve
  • Rumex obtusifolius subsp. agrestis (Fr.) Danser
  • Rumex obtusifolius subsp. obtusifolius
  • Rumex obtusifolius subsp. sylvestris (Wallr.) Rech. f.
  • Rumex obtusifolius var. sylvestris (Wallr.) Koch [E-flora]

Western Dock - Rumex occidentalis

"Rumex occidentalis is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.8 m (6ft).
It is not frost tender. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]



Pacific willow dock - Rumex transitorius


Status: Native [E-flora]

Willow dock - Rumex triangulivalvis

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Status: Native [E-flora]

Key to Rumex

la Staminate and pistillate flowers on separate plants; leaves arrowhead-shaped .................... R. acetosella
lb Stamens and pistils in the same flower; leaves not arrow-head shaped
2a Annuals or biennials; leaves linear to narrowly lanceolate; mostly in wet, saline areas ....................... R. maritimus
2b Perennials
3a Inner perianth segments with teeth or bristles over 1 mm. long
4a Basal leaf blades narrowly lanceolate; panicle branches spreading. ............................... R. pulcher
4b Basal leaf blades broadly ovate to ovate-oblong; panicle branches ascending to erect ..................... R. obtusifolius
3b Inner perianth segments entire or nearly so
5a Leaves mostly cauline; stems branching from most nodes, often prostate to ascending ............... R. salicifolius
5b Leaves basal as well as cauline; stems essentially unbranched below the inflorescence, erect
6a Inner perianth segments without conspicuous callosities ......... R. occidentalis
6b At least 1 of the inner perianth segments with a conspicuous callosity
7a Margins of all the leaves strongly crisped; inflorescence of nearly contiguous whorls of flowers ....... R. crispus
7b Margins of the leaves not all crisped, none strongly so; flowers in distinct whorls .................. R. conglomeratus


Food Use

Other Use

Medicinal Use



Curled Dock – Rumex Crispus [218] [PFAF]

Part: Leaves Per 100 g fresh weight

Calories 21
Riboflavin (mg) 0.08
Vitamin A (RE) 1.38
Water 92.60%
Niacin (mg) 0.4
Calcium (mg) 74
Protein (g) 1.5
Fiber (g) 0.9

Phosphorus (mg) 56
Fat (g) 0.3
Ash (g) 1.5
Iron (mg) 5.6
Carbohydrate (g) 4.1
Thiamine (mg) 0.06
Vitamin C (mg) 30

Notes: The figure for vitamin A is in milligrammes.





Phytochemistry of other Rumex Sp.

Uses of Various Rumex Sp

Rumex arcticus - Arctic Sourdock

  • Habit/Range: "...common in rich, alpine or arctic meadows, ranging from arctic Europe and Asia over Alaska to the Mackenzie District, but does not reach Hudson Bay." [Porslid EPA]
  • "Rumex arcticus and other Rumex spp. (sourdock, wild rhubarb); Polygonaceae—clearings, disturbed ground, circumboreal, northern regions; leaves and stems eaten, fermented, boiled, fresh by Inuit and other First Peoples." [ETWP] "The mildly acid leaves of young stems may be eaten raw as a salad, or cooked as spinach." [Porslid EPA]

" of the most important food plants on Nelson Island. The leaves are collected when young and tender. They are boiled, and eaten either hot or cold with seal oil, and sometimes with sugar. The cooked leaves are sometimes served with a sauce-like coating of imported milk. When sourdock leaves are boiled and mixed with seal oil, they can be preserved for months." [Ager,1980] Leaves & stems harvested in spring and summer and consumed or stored for later use. "Greens such as Rumex arcticus could be found throughout the delta and old camp sites are said to contain buried cache pits once used for plant storage." [Helaine_Selin]

"As an example, when harvesting “wild spinach” or sour dock, Nunivak elders state that they would stay in an area until they had harvested enough for their family’s long-term needs (Amos 1991; Kiokan 1995). After picking, they would cook the spinach a little bit before placing it into a cache dug underground. Cook em half way, just for the leaves to just shrivel up and not take much space, and they would dig ditches and line it with a certain type of twigs and grass and put em’ in there until the weather gets colder, before the ground get hard, knowing that when it freezes, that Ciwassat (Rumex arcticus) would freeze in with the earth. So before that time they would go over there again, pull the Ciwassat out and this time leave em’ on top of the ground… They would cover them with grass, probably willows too to keep them together and they would leave them until it freezes (Amos 1991: 16)." [Helaine_Selin]

"Before placing the spinach in the caches, the cooked leaves would be drained of juice and the pit lined with woven grass mats (e.g., Elymus mollis).'' [Helaine_Selin]


"After a full season or two of growth, the roots will be ready for harvest. Yellowdock is a perennial, so you can wait longer if you wish— the roots will get bigger. Since they can branch considerably under the soil, consider using a digging fork or a small shovel to help. The best time to do this is after the whole plant has turned a rusty brown: this both ensures that the root is completely mature and that there will be a good amount of seed to scatter after harvest." [Mase WMS]


"Sorrel. (Rumex acetosa, perennial) Save seeds from the plants that go to seed late. Since flavor is better before seed stalk formation, you don’t want to develop an early-seeding strain. Sorrel will cross-pollinated. Cut off the stalk when the flaky seeds are dry, and rub them off." [NSSH Bubel]



PagSunday, March 6, 2022 5:14 AMPM