Curled Dock, Curly Dock, Narrow Dock, Sour Dock, Yellow Dock
Synonyms of Rumex crispus: Lapathum crispum (L.) Scop., Rumex coreanus Nakai, Rumex crispus subsp. fauriei (Rech.f.) Mosyakin & W.L.Wagner, Rumex crispus var. fauriei (Rech.f.) Reveal, Rumex elongatus Guss., Rumex fauriei Rech.f., Rumex kunthii Campd., Rumex lingulatus Schur, Rumex luederi Münter, Rumex patientia var. crispus (L.) Kuntze, Rumex turcicus Boiss.
Rumex crispus L. is the correct and accepted scientific name for Curled Dock. The genus and species were named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the first volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
Accepted infraspecific names: Rumex crispus subsp. littoreus (Hardy) Akeroyd, Rumex crispus subsp. robustus (Rech.) Pestova, Rumex crispus subsp. strictissimus (Rech.f.) Pestova, Rumex crispus subsp. uliginosus (Le Gall) Akeroyd
Plants of the World Online lists 194 species in the Rumex genus (as of 6-10-20 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 distribution map for Rumex crispus above is from Plants of the World Online. Areas in green are where the species is native and purple where it has been introduced. The map on the USDA Plants Database for North America is similar. It also includes Pennsylvania in the U.S.A. and Newfoundland in Canada that POWO doesn’t show yet.
There are several links at the bottom of the page for further reading and to help with a better positive ID.
Rumex crispus is an herbaceous perennial species that can be seen pretty much worldwide and many of us are familiar with it. There are many plants growing here on the farm mainly near the barn. Plants are among the first to come up in the spring, forming a good-sized rosette of leaves. The species has several common names including Curled Dock, Curly Dock, Narrow Dock, Sour Dock, Yellow Dock, and probably others. The above photo of a rosette was taken on April 7, 2020. All the photos on this page are from the same plant except the rosette above.
Most information online says Rumex crispus grows to about 3 feet tall but the plant most of these photos are from grew to a little over 5 feet.
Generally, Rumex crispus is usually unbranched except toward the top where the flowers appear. This particular plant had several stems coming from the base of the plant. Stems are hairless and ribbed.
The terminal inflorescence consists of bracteate panicles of racemes with whorls of flowers. Plants produce bisexual and female flowers (pistillate). Flowers have no scent and are pollinated by the wind.
The yellowish or reddish-green flowers have no petals and are about 1/8″ long and consists of 3 inner sepals, 3 outer sepals, 3 styles, and an ovary. The bisexual flowers also have 6 stamens.
Leaves grow in an alternate manner along the stem. Both the larger lower (basil) and smaller upper (cauline) leaves are lance-shaped and have a wavy or kind of curled appearance. Upper leaves are not as crisped or wavy as the basal leaves and have shorter petioles (leaf stems).
The above photo shows multiple stems coming from the base of the plant.
Rumex crispus is a neat plant that doesn’t really get out of hand here. There are states that have the species listed as an invasive, noxious weed.
This plants leaves are edible but have to be prepared in a certain way due to their high oxalic acid content. Young leaves can be used sparingly in salad and have a unique flavor. Plants have been used in herbal medicine.
Friends of the Wildflower Garden (Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden) has a very good write up about the Rumex crispus you may enjoy reading.
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. 🙂