Tall Dock, Pale Dock, Smooth Dock, Peach-Leaf Dock
Rumex altissimus Alph.Wood is the correct and accepted scientific name for Tall Dock. It was named and described as such by Alphonso Wood in the second edition of A Class-book of Botany in 1847.
The genus, Rumex L., was named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the first volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
Plants of the World Online lists 194 species in the Rumex genus (as of 6-12-20 when I am updating this page). The genus is a member of the Polygonaceae Family with a total of 55 genera. Those numbers could change periodically as updates are made.
The above distribution map for Rumex altissimus is from the USDA Plants Database. The map on Plants of the World Online is similar but does not show as much range. I am sure someday they will be the same…
There are several links at the bottom of the page for further reading and to help with a better positive ID.
I found a small colony of these plants on a friend’s farm next to the entrance to his pasture along the highway. Right away I knew they were a Rumex species but they weren’t like the two I identified on my own farm. So, the next day I brought my camera and took photos. After uploading the photos on iNaturalist, I was able to correctly identify the plants as Rumex altissimus. It goes by several common names including Tall Dock, Pale Dock, Smooth Dock, Peach-Leaf Dock, and probably others.
Rumex altissimus is a perennial plant that grows from 11/2” up to around 4’ tall and is a native of North America. It produces strong central stems that may lean with age and usually branch out below the inflorescence. Stems are round (terete), hairless (glabrous), light green with darker green longitudinal striations. Plants have deep taproots.
Stems have a sheath around the leaf nodes formed by stipules (leaf-like appendages to a leaf). These sheaths eventually dry and turn brown and may fall off. These sheaths are characteristic of many species in the family including other docks and smartweed (Persicaria species). I have identified six species of Persicaria on the farm.
The leaves grow in an alternate fashion along the stems and are lance-shaped (lanceolate) to oblong-lanceolate, have short petioles (leaf stems), have smooth margins, are hairless (glabrous), and are shiny. Leaves are not crisped, curly, or wavy as with Rumex crispus (Curled Dock).
The above photo is the underside of the leaf showing a prominent midrib.
Above is another photo of the sheath around the stem at the leaf node.
Flowers grow on top of the stems in terminal inflorescences from 4-12″ in length.
The flowers are considered “imperfect” (unisexual) and have neither petals or carpels. Imperfect flowers lack either stamens (carpellate) or carpels (staminate). So, in this case, flowers of Rumex altissimus (and other Rumex species) are called carpellate flowers and have six greenish sepals.
The flowers, as you can see, are light green. Flowering is from April-May and lasts for at least two weeks but plants that have been cut may flower later as well. Flowers turn a coppery brown than forms LOADS of seeds.
I may go back and take photographs of the seeds at some point.
I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. My farm is in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and most have pages listed on the right side of the blog. I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a horticulturalist I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky
NOTE: Plants of the World Online is the most up-to-date database. It is very hard for some to keep with name changes these days so you may find a few discrepancies between the websites. Just be patient. Hopefully, someday they will be in harmony. 🙂