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Rumex X patientia Sturm55.jpg
Patience dock
(Rumex patientia)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Polygonaceae
Subfamily: Polygonoideae
Genus: Rumex
L. 1753
Type species
Rumex patientia

About 200, see text

  • Acetosa Tourn. ex Mill.
  • Acetosella (Meisn.) Fourr.
  • Analiton Raf.
  • Atecosa Raf.
  • Bucephalophora Pau
  • Centopodium Burch.
  • Emex Neck. ex Campd.
  • Eutralia Raf.
  • Lapathon Raf.
  • Lapathum Mill.
  • Menophyla Raf.
  • Nemolapathum Ehrh.
  • Oxylapathon St.-Lag.
  • Rhodoptera Raf.
  • Steinmannia Opiz
  • Tomaris Raf.
  • Vibo Medik.
  • Vibones Raf.

The docks and sorrels, genus Rumex, are a genus of about 200 species of annual, biennial, and perennial herbs in the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae. Members of this genus are very common perennial herbs with a native almost worldwide distribution, and introduced species growing in the few places where the genus is not native.[1]

Some are nuisance weeds (and are sometimes called dockweed or dock weed), but some are grown for their edible leaves.[2] Rumex species are used as food plants by the larvae of a number of Lepidoptera species, and are the only host plants of Lycaena rubidus.[3]


They are erect plants, usually with long taproots. The fleshy to leathery leaves form a basal rosette at the root. The basal leaves may be different from those near the inflorescence. They may or may not have stipules. Minor leaf veins occur. The leaf blade margins are entire or crenate.

The usually inconspicuous flowers are carried above the leaves in clusters. The fertile flowers are mostly hermaphrodites, or they may be functionally male or female. The flowers and seeds grow on long clusters at the top of a stalk emerging from the basal rosette; in many species, the flowers are green, but in some (such as sheep's sorrel, Rumex acetosella) the flowers and their stems may be brick-red. Each seed is a three-sided achene, often with a round tubercle on one or all three sides.


The genus was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. Within the family Polygonaceae, it is placed in the subfamily Polygonoideae. The genus Emex was separated from Rumex by Francisco Campderá in 1819 on the basis that it was polygamous (i.e. had both bisexual and unisexual flowers on the same plant). However, some species of Rumex subg. Acetosa also have this characteristic, and most other features that are supposed to distinguish Emex are found in species of Rumex. Accordingly, in 2015, Schuster et al. demoted Emex to a subgenus of Rumex.[4]

Within the subfamily Polygonoideae, Rumex is placed in the tribe Rumiceae, along with the two genera Oxyria and Rheum. It is most closely related to Rheum, which includes Rhubarb.[4]






Rumex nervosus in Ethiopia

As of June 2022, Plants of the World Online accepted the following species. A large number of hybrids are also recorded.[1]

Flowers of curled dock (R. crispus) with remarkable tubercles
Broad-leaved dock leaves (R. obtusifolius)


These plants have many uses. Broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) used to be called butter dock because its large leaves were used to wrap and conserve butter.

Rumex hymenosepalus has been cultivated in the Southwestern US as a source of tannin (roots contain up to 25%), for use in leather tanning, while leaves and stems are used for a mordant-free mustard-colored dye.

These plants are edible. The leaves of most species contain oxalic acid and tannin, and many have astringent and slightly purgative qualities. Some species with particularly high levels of oxalic acid are called sorrels (including sheep's sorrel Rumex acetosella, common sorrel Rumex acetosa, and French sorrel Rumex scutatus), and some of these are grown as leaf vegetables or garden herbs for their acidic taste.[5][6]

In the United Kingdom, Rumex obtusifolius is often found growing near stinging nettles, owing to both species favouring a similar environment, and there is a widely held belief that the underside of the dock leaf, squeezed to extract a little juice, can be rubbed on the skin to counteract the itching caused by brushing against a nettle plant.[7] This home remedy is not supported by any science, although it is possible that the act of rubbing may act as a distracting counterstimulation, or that belief in the dock's effect may provide a placebo effect.[8]

In traditional Austrian medicine, R. alpinus leaves and roots have been used internally for treatment of viral infections.[9]

Rumex nepalensis is also has a variety of medicinal uses in the Greater Himalayas, including Sikkim in Northeastern India.[10]

Fossil record[edit]

Several fossil fruits of Rumex sp. have been described from middle Miocene strata of the Fasterholt area near Silkeborg in Central Jutland, Denmark.[11]

One fossil fruit of a Rumex species has been extracted from a borehole sample of the Middle Miocene fresh water deposits in Nowy Sacz Basin, West Carpathians, Poland. This fossil fruit is similar to the fruits of the extant species Rumex maritimus and Rumex ucranicus which both have fossil records from the Pliocene and Pleistocene of Europe.[12]


Dock, raw (Rumex spp.)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy92 kJ (22 kcal)
3.2 g
Dietary fiber2.9 g
0.7 g
2 g
Vitamin A equiv.
200 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.04 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.1 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.5 mg
Vitamin B6
0.122 mg
Folate (B9)
13 μg
Vitamin C
48 mg
44 mg
2.4 mg
103 mg
0.349 mg
63 mg
390 mg
0.2 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central

Nutrition information is shown in the infobox on the right.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Rumex L.". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2022-06-22.
  2. ^ Martin, Alexander C. (1972). Weeds. New York: Golden Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-307-24353-2.
  3. ^ Warren, Andres; Harrera, Alfonso (15 March 2005). "Butterflies of Oregon Their Taxonomy, Distribution, and Biology" (PDF). Lepidoptera of North America. 6.
  4. ^ a b Schuster, Tanja M.; Reveal, James L.; Bayly, Michael J. & Kron, Kathleen A. (2015). "An updated molecular phylogeny of Polygonoideae (Polygonaceae): Relationships of Oxygonum, Pteroxygonum, and Rumex, and a new circumscription of Koenigia". Taxon. 64 (6): 1188–1208. doi:10.12705/646.5.
  5. ^ "Sorrel, Garden or Common [Rumex acetosa]".
  6. ^ Łuczaj, Łukasz (2008). "Archival data on wild food plants used in Poland in 1948". Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 4 (1): 4. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-4-4. PMC 2275233. PMID 18218132.
  7. ^ "Recorded uses of' dock (Rumex sp.)". Ethnomedica. Archived from the original on 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2008-04-15.[verification needed]
  8. ^ Hopcroft, Keith (10 September 2005). "Home remedies: dock leaves for nettle stings". Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  9. ^ Vogl, S; Picker, P; Mihaly-Bison, J; Fakhrudin, N; et al. (2013). "Ethnopharmacological in vitro studieson Austria's folk medicine-An unexplored lore in vitro anti-inflammatory activities of 71 Austrian traditional herbal drugs". J Ethnopharmacol. 149 (3): 750–71. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.007. PMC 3791396. PMID 23770053.
  10. ^ O'Neill, Alexander R.; Badola, Hemant K.; Dhyani, Pitamber P.; Rana, Santosh K. (29 March 2017). "Integrating ethnobiological knowledge into biodiversity conservation in the Eastern Himalayas". Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 13 (21): 21. doi:10.1186/s13002-017-0148-9. PMC 5372287. PMID 28356115.
  11. ^ Friis, Else Marie (1985). "Angiosperm Fruits and Seeds from the Middle Miocene of Jutland (Denmark)". The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. 24 (3).
  12. ^ Macroscopic plant remains from the freshwater Miocene of the Nowy Sącz Basin (West Carpathians, Poland) by Maria Łańcucka-Środoniowa, Acta Palaeobotanica 1979 20 (1): 3-117.

External links[edit]