Rumex crispus L.


Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)




Curly Dock


Yellow Dock 

                                       March Photo


Plant Characteristics:  Perennial with taproot; stem smooth, rather slender, 5-12 dm. high; lower lvs. lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, 1-3 dm.  long, with long petioles, strongly crisped marginally, acute, the upper reduced; panicle strict, narrow, 1-5 dm. long; pedicels 5-10 mm. long, with swollen joints near the base; outer sepals barely 1 mm. long; the valves in fr. 4-6 mm. long, round-ovate, subcordate, entire to minutely erose, usually with 3 equal or unequal callosities, rarely with only 1; aks. 2 mm. long.


Habitat:  Common weed in low places through much of N. Am.; 0-3000 m.  On most of our islands and occasional on desert.  Blooms most of the year.


Name:  Rumex, is the ancient Latin name for the docks or sorrels.  Crispus is also from Latin meaning "curled."  (Dale 159).


General:  Common in the study area.   Photographed in big Canyon and the Santa Ana Heights Flats.  (my comments).      The leaves make excellent potherbs and stuffings.  Its stems when young and tender may also be used for pie and sauce.  (Clarke 108).       Dried root can be used as a gentle tonic, astringent, laxative and alternative, and externally for itching. (ref. not recorded).       In the far west, the Blackfeet Indians mashed the roots into a pulp and applied it to human sores and swellings and also to their horses for saddle sores.  Similar use among the Navajo is mentioned, and the Iroquois used the plant as a food.  (Coon 192).        All of the species of Rumex bear edible leaves and leaf stems, but some have less acid than others, a fact easily discerned by tasting their tartness.  Those that are particularly tart or bitter should be boiled two or three times in fresh water, which will remove most of the acid and yet leave a pleasant flavor.  Navajo Indians formerly extracted a dye from the roots and the Hopi and Papago used them for treating colds.  (Kirk, 53,54).      The root of the curled dock, Rumex crispus, had an astringent quality that aided in healing cuts when pounded and placed on the cut as a poultice.  (Fielder 18).      Chaucer reported that merely repeating the incantation "Nettle out, Dock in, Dock remove the Nettle sting." while rubbing dock leaves over the region of your skin stung by the nettle would cause the ache to leave.  (Crockett 123).       Delfina Cuero, a Kumeyaay or Southern Diegueno Indian, made the following comments about Rumex crispus in her autobiography:  "We ate the young leaves boiled as greens.  When the plant is old, gathered only the seed to grind on a metate for pinole."  (Shipek 96).       The activities of Yellow Dock are due to the yellow substances, chrysophanic acid and emodin, as well as variable but substantial amounts of tannin.  Its primary uses are for treating constipation, blood disorders, skin diseases, rheumatism, and indigestion.  (Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West 166).      The roots of this herb have been

used for many purposes by former generations and still seem to be credited with a sedative or soothing influence in such conditions as facial neuralgia.  It may have such strong reaction, however, including effect upon the vision, that it should not be used as a


home remedy.  (Meyer 145).      Rich and easily digested iron so essential for human, animal, and plant, is one of the main contents of yellow dock.  (Hutchens 235).      Indians cut roots and steeped in boiling water for a tonic and a stomach remedy; also, they washed roots and applied them to sores and swellings.  (Sweet 38).        The pollen of cattails sweetened many dishes such as meal made from unparched curly dock seeds.   Cattail pollen placed in a hollow stem of curly dock and baked in the coals for about 10 minutes made a kind of candy.  (Campbell 137).


Text Ref:  Hickman, Ed. 894; Munz, Calif. Flora 357; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 706; Roberts 34.

Photo Ref:  Feb-Mar 83 # 19,20; June 2 83 # 3.

Identity: by R. De Ruff.

First Found:  March 1983.


Computer Ref:  Plant Data 261.

Have plant specimen.

Last edit 10/15/04.


                                     March Photo                                                                            June Photo