Curly dock

Encyclopedia Article

Curly dock                    Rumex crispus L.

Family:  Polygonaceae (Smartweed family)
Life cycle:  Perennial, reproducing by seed
Native status:  Introduced
Habitat: Pastures, roadsides, low maintenance turf, waste areas

General description: Basal rosette of elongated leaves (up to 12 in long) with wavy margins. Leaves are a dull green. Flowering stem has a few leaves and reaches heights of 3 ft. Flowers have green sepals; mature into brown, 3-sided winged structure surrounding the achene.

Key ID traits:  Rosette of wavy, elongated leaves. Leaves of rosette have large, 'slimy' ochrea usually positioned below the soil line. Flower stalk with clusters of winged achenes. Achenes turn dark brown when mature. 

Similar species:  There are several closely related Rumex species similar in appearance to curly dock.  The wavy leaf margin is the key vegetative trait to identify curly dock. Pale dock (Rumex altissimus) has similar shaped leaves, but leaves are glossy and don't have the wavy margin.  Broadleaf dock (Rumex obtusifolius) leaves are approximately half was wide as they are long, whereas curly and pale dock leaves are much narrower.

Miscellaneous: A native of Europe, curly dock was first observed in North America in the 1700s.

Curly dock produces a rosette of elongated leaves with wavy leaf margins in the spring.

As the stem elongates large ochreas are visible surrounding the leaf petioles.


Curly dock produces dense panicles, seed have small wings and turn dark brown when mature.

Pale/sour dock has a similar growth habit as curly dock, but the leaf margins are smooth rather than wavy.