Rumex crispus (curled dock)
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Rumex crispus L. (1753)
Preferred Common Name
- curled dock
International Common Names
- English: curly dock
- Spanish: oseille crépu; patience crépu; rumex crépu
- French: oseille à feuilles de patience; parelle; patience crépue
- Portuguese: labaca-crespa
Local Common Names
- Brazil: azeda-crespa
- Germany: Krauser ampfer
- Italy: romice; romice crespa
- Japan: nagabagishigishi
- Netherlands: krulzuring
- Sweden: krusskräppa
- RUMCR (Rumex crispus)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Polygonales
- Family: Polygonaceae
- Genus: Rumex
- Species: Rumex crispus
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page The Latin name Rumex crispus was given by Linnaeus and appears to be the only name used in modern literature. The genus name 'Rumex' refers to a noun meaning acid. The attribute 'crispus' means curled, which alludes to the curly and wavy leaves of this species, as does the common name 'curled dock'. Chromosome number is 2n = 60.
DescriptionTop of page The plant is an erect herb, usually from 40 to 120 cm tall, but plants over 150 cm may be found under favourable growth conditions. It is a stationary perennial, which can survive for several years by means of a fleshy taproot, up to about 4 cm in width, more or less branched and reaching a depth of 150 cm or more in soils that allow deep root penetration. The taproot is topped by a fleshy stem, 2-4 cm long, whose upper part, the 'crown', situated at the ground surface, is often branched or vertically split. Overwintering buds develop from the crown near the ground surface level, the plant therefore being a hemicryptophyte in Raunkiær´s (1934) life-form classification.
New rosette leaves and erect stems with alternate leaves develop from the crown. Stems are stiff, usually with a smooth, more or less reddish surface. On young plants, they are often single, on older plants mostly in groups from the branched or split crown. Leaves are bluish green with petioles shorter than the lamina. The upper leaves have no or very short petioles. Lamina are lanceolate, curly and wavy along their margins, 8 to 30 cm long and 2 to 7 cm wide. They have pointed tips and are narrowed at the base. The lamina of the lower leaves have more rounded bases than those of upper leaves on the stem. Inflorescences are racemes, rather dense, mostly between 10 and 50 cm long, representing branches from the axils of upper leaves of the stem and the top shoot. The leaves among the inflorescence branches are linear without petioles and, approaching the top, they become gradually smaller. Flowers, in dense clusters, are small with valves (inner sepals, sometimes known as tepals) that are 3-5 mm long and wide on pedicels which are 5-10 mm in length, green in the beginning and brown at maturity. Both bisexual and female flowers occur on the same plant. Seeds develop in achenes that are triangular in cross section, 2-3 mm long, 1.2-1.7 mm wide, with a shortly pointed base and a somewhat more long-pointed apex. The achenes, which have a shining reddish brown surface, are enclosed within three inner sepals (valves), which are heart-shaped with entire margins, first green, brown at maturity. The seeds are more or less polymorphic, mainly differing in size.
DistributionTop of page R. crispus is native to Eurasia, however it was characterized by Hultén (1950) as a circumpolar plant, and has been very widely spread by human activity. Distribution is primarily within temperate regions, but it has also spread to highlands with cooler climates in equatorial areas in all continents, and may be found in scattered places north of the Arctic circle.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
HabitatTop of page R. crispus grows on most types of soil and was characterized as indifferent to pH by Ellenberg (1974). It occurs, however, less often on peat and acid soils and seems to be most competitive on fertile soils (Korsmo, 1930; Hanf, 1982). High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are advantageous, whereas high levels of potassium may be a disadvantage (Peel and Hopkins, 1980; Hopkins et al. 1985). R. crispus favours humid conditions but can withstand periods of drought because of deep-growing roots.
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page As a stationary perennial, R. crispus is a weed predominantly in places where the soil is not annually disturbed by intensive soil cultivation (Håkansson, 1982, 1995a, b). It is, therefore, primarily a weed in grasslands (pastures and meadows) and on arable land under perennial crops, for example, leys for cutting or grazing which form part of a rotation. It is also a weed in orchards and vineyards and other fruit gardens. It otherwise occurs as a ruderal on shores, roadsides, ditchbanks and courtyards.
In annual crops, it may produce vigorous plants, particularly in fields where its perennating regenerative organs are not weakened by intensive soil tillage. These vigorous individuals exhibit a rich production of large seeds, and R. crispus can sometimes, more than most stationary perennials, be an important weed in annual crops sown or planted after soil tillage. It has been reported as a weed in many annual crops (Korsmo, 1930; Holm et al., 1977; Hanf, 1982).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Allium cepa (onion)||Liliaceae||Other|
|Avena sativa (oats)||Poaceae||Other|
|Beta vulgaris (beetroot)||Chenopodiaceae||Other|
|Brassica napus var. napus (rape)||Brassicaceae||Other|
|Brassica rapa subsp. oleifera (turnip rape)||Brassicaceae||Other|
|Camellia sinensis (tea)||Theaceae||Other|
|Carthamus tinctorius (safflower)||Asteraceae||Other|
|Daucus carota (carrot)||Apiaceae||Other|
|Hordeum distichon (two-rowed barley)||Poaceae||Other|
|Hordeum vulgare (barley)||Poaceae||Other|
|Linum usitatissimum (flax)||Other|
|Medicago sativa (lucerne)||Fabaceae||Other|
|Oryza sativa (rice)||Poaceae||Other|
|Pisum sativum (pea)||Fabaceae||Other|
|Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)||Poaceae||Other|
|Secale cereale (rye)||Poaceae||Other|
|Solanum tuberosum (potato)||Solanaceae||Other|
|Triticum aestivum (wheat)||Poaceae||Other|
|Vitis vinifera (grapevine)||Vitaceae||Other|
|Zea mays (maize)||Poaceae||Other|
Biology and EcologyTop of page R. crispus can grow and produce seeds under very different temperature and photoperiodic regimes, but vegetative growth as well as seed production is favoured by temperature and light conditions typical of the growing seasons in temperate areas. Maun and Cavers (1969, 1970) studied the performance of overwintering plants at 10, 15, 26 and 35°C. The most vigorous roots and the largest seeds were produced at 10°C, whereas the highest yields of biomass and seeds were obtained at 26°C. Photoperiod studies at this temperature indicated that viable seeds could develop under short-day conditions (photoperiod 8 hours), however, plants grew and developed much more rapidly and seed production was 16 times greater at long photoperiods (15 hours).
R. crispus survives winters and dry seasons vegetatively, and as seeds, which are often produced abundantly. Plants survive vegetatively by means of the taproot with its attached stem crown at the ground surface. If conditions are not too unfavourable, rosettes of leaves from the stem crowns are able to overwinter.
New shoots develop from buds in leaf axils on the crown and begin their growth in early spring. On plants with an intact taproot crown, new shoots develop from this upper stem part of the taproot. When the stem crown, situated at the ground surface, has become destroyed during winter or early spring, for example., by frost and, or fungi, new shoots can be initiated from the pericycle in the real root further down (Kvist and Håkansson, 1985). During the first period of growth, there is a net loss of food reserves in the regenerative system (taproot plus stem crown) until leaf surfaces are large enough to secure positive net photosynthesis. In Swedish experiments this happened on 10-15 May, when the plants had 5-6 well developed rosette leaves. After this, the aerial shoots grew very rapidly with stem elongation starting in larger plants on 15-20 May. The first flower buds develop soon after. Intensive development of racemes with green flowers occurred from early June to mid-July. After that period, an increasing number of racemes matured and became brown. All racemes were brown by mid-August. In fields surrounding the experimental site, new flushes of raceme development were observed at the same time as the first racemes matured, particularly on the largest plants. Thus, in late summer and early autumn, plants with both green and brown racemes can be observed. (Cavers and Harper, 1964; Holm et al., 1977.)
Under favourable growth conditions, when competition from other plants is weak and adequate nutrients and water are available, seedlings that have emerged in the spring can develop elongated shoots with flowers in the first growing season. In a competitive situation, most plants which establish from seed only develop leaf rosettes in their first growing season.
Young plants of R. crispus establishing from seed in grassland may be favoured by frequent mowing (Hongo, 1989). Percentage survival of individuals is greater under a frequent compared with an infrequent cutting regime. When frequently cut the leaves grow more horizontally (prostrate) and avoid being cut. Infrequent cutting encourages vertical growth so that individuals lose a greater proportion of their biomass at each cutting event. Even in lawns cut weekly, the plant can persist for long periods by means of the prostrate leaves, although the individuals remain rather small.
The high fecundity exhibited by R. crispus, together with the ability of many seeds to remain dormant, but viable, in the soil means that this species is able to develop a large persistent seed bank (Darlington and Steinbauer, 1951; Lewis, 1973). Plants from seeds of R. crispus can appear abundantly on disturbed ground, for example, on arable land ploughed after many decades of grassland, even where seed production has been prevented or minimal. There is considerable polymorphism among the seeds, both within and between parent plants. Different seeds therefore respond differently to environmental stimuli with regard to dormancy and germination characteristics (Cavers, 1963; Cavers and Harper, 1964; Williams, 1971). This causes variation in longevity and germination seasonality of the seeds, which favours the persistence of established plant populations under fluctuating environmental conditions and the colonization of new habitats. Seeds are dispersed by a number of agents; humans through agricultural activities, by wind and water, in the fur of animals, and via the digestive tracts of birds and cattle (Holm et al., 1977).
Soil cultivation stimulates the germination of R. crispus seeds in the soil. In soil stirred by simulated cultivation in spring, summer and autumn, Roberts and Neilson (1980) registered seedling emergence from early spring to early autumn, although predominantly in spring and early summer. Seedlings which emerge after autumn germination, survive winter to a considerable extent (Cavers and Harper, 1967). Germination is stimulated by light (daylight or near-red), and, or fluctuating temperature, and inhibited by far-red light (Le Deunff, 1971). Constant temperatures induce secondary dormancy (Roberts and Totterdell, 1981). A dense vegetation canopy, which absorbs much of the near-red light and levels out temperature fluctuations at the ground surface, therefore restricts germination.
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page Cavers and Harper (1964) provide long lists of arthropods and fungi attacking R. crispus in the UK. Spencer (1981) surveyed ptoentially useful natural enemies in Italy and listed insects and fungi encountered damaging it. Studies on the biology and host range of potential biological control agents have been made: two sessiid moth root borers, Bembicia chrysisdiformis (Scott and Sagliocco, 1991a) and Chamaesphecia doryliformis (Scott and Sagliocco, 1991b); an anthomyiid leaf miner, Pegomyia solennis (Scott and Sagliocco, 1989); a root boring weevil, Lixomorpha ocularis (Campobasso and Murano, 1988); a rust fungus, Uromyces rumicis (Frank, 1973); leaf spot fungus, Uromyces rumicis is also considered to be a host specific and damaging pathogen.
ImpactTop of page R. crispus has seldom been characterized as one of the most serious weeds of arable land. It is a harmful weed mainly in permanent pastures and meadows, and in perennial arable crops. In the absence of effective soil tillage, it may become a weed of economic importance in competitive annual crops, such as cereals. With primitive cleaning equipment, R. crispus seeds can cause contamination problems in grain or seed harvests of many different crops. It is still difficult to completely remove seeds of R. crispus and other Rumex plants in seed lots of, for instance, clover (Trifolium spp.) and lucerne (Medicago stiva) because of similarities in specific gravity and size (Evans and Yates, 1983; Holm, 1983).
Shoots of R. crispus in young stages have a good nutritive value for cattle, but quality deteriorates rapidly with age due to the development of hard, unpalatable stalks with a very low digestibility (Courtney, 1972; Barber, 1985). The plants are, however, from rather early stages of shoot development, largely refused by grazing cattle. This strengthens their competitive position within grazed swards. Dense stands of R. crispus therefore considerably reduces the palability of vegetation in meadows or leys for grazing (Courtney, 1972, 1985).
When R. crispus occurs in hay or silage, its hard and woody stems are refused by cattle and can reduce palatability. Holm et al. (1977) reported that R. crispus has been found toxic to poultry, and that cattle may suffer gastric disturbances and dermatitis when large amounts are eaten.
Uses ListTop of page
- Host of pest
- Poisonous to mammals
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page Although R. crispus is the most widespread of the Rumex species with an erect habit, it may be confused with a number of other Rumex species which occur in similar habitats.
Species distinguished by the absence of swollen tubercles on the tepals include R. longifolius. This species, which occurs in Europe and North America, is morphologically most similar to R. crispus. Its leaves are lanceolate but, on average, broader and less curled, more wavy. However, the variation is considerable, and the occurrence of hybrids complicates these distinctions. Valves (inner sepals) of the flowers are heart-formed with entire margins and a rounded apex, whereas the apex of the valves in R. crispus is pointed.
In R. obtusifolius, common in Europe, N. America and many other regions, the lamina of the leaves are broader relative to their length than in R. crispus. In particular the lamina of the lower leaves have pronounced heart-shaped bases and rounded tips. The roots are often more branched near the ground surface than those of R. crispus and R. longifolius. Valves (inner sepals) of the flowers are triangular with more or less toothed margins and a more rounded apex than in R. crispus.
Other species occurring widely in Europe and sporadically elsewhere include R. comglomeratus, R. pulcher and R. sanguineus, while R. abyssinicus occupies a similar ecological niche in East Africa and Ethiopia and R. dentatus in India, Pakistan and the Middle East.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Cultural Control
In cropping systems with repeated growing of competitive annual crops, and with ploughing and harrowing regularly performed between crops, there is normally no need for additional measures to control R. crispus. However, in less competitive crops (row crops such as sugar beets and most vegetables), control measures, mechanical or physical may be required, even in fields where cumulative seed rain is moderate. In perennial two- to three-year leys in crop rotations, cutting usually prevents the growth of tall shoots thereby reducing seed production so that additional active control is seldom needed. When breaking the ley for subsequent growing of annual crops, thorough tillage should be carried out to prevent vegetative survival. In permanent pastures and particularly in meadows for grazing, active control of R. crispus and related species is often required. Cutting or pulling up the more vigorous plants has been practiced. Effective control by herbicides is now possible.
R. crispus can be controlled chemically by a number of herbicides, although the plants are often only moderately susceptible. Best control is obtained by foliage application in spring or autumn on young rosette leaves. In more advanced stages, plants are on the whole very resistant or tolerant to herbicides. Types of herbicides used, alone or in combinations, are phenoxy acids, such as 2,4-D, MCPA, dichlorprop and mecoprop, fluroxipyr, thifensulfuron-methyl and tribenuron-methyl (Ericsson, 1997). Mamarot and Rodriguez (1997) list a further range of recommendations, including amidosulfuron and metsulfuron in cereals.
The possibilities for classical biological control of R. crispus and other weedy Rumex spp. has been investigated in relation to the possibility of importing agents from Europe in the USA (Spencer, 1981; Campobasso and Murano, 1988) and Australia (Scott, 1990). No introductions are reported for the USA but two sessiid root borers, Bambecia chrysisiformis and Chamaesphecia doryliformis were imported into Australia after host specificity studies (Scott and Sagliocco, 1991a, b) and a progamme of releases initiated (Fisher, 1992). No record of the outcome of this work has been found. Similarly, the use of the fungi Uromyces rumicis investigated by Frank (1973) and Ramularia rubella investigated by Huber-Meinicke et al. (1989), which were found to be specific to Rumex spp., has been proposed (see also Scott, 1990) but does not seem to have been followed up.
ReferencesTop of page
Alex JF; Switzer CM, 1977. Ontario Weeds. Descriptions, Illustrations and Keys to their Identification. Ontario, Canada: Ministry of Agriculture and Food College, University of Guelph, Publication 505:200 pp.
Barber W, 1985. The nutritional value of common weeds. Occasional Symposium of the British Grassland Society, 18. Croydon, UK: British Crop Protection Council, 104-111.
Cavers P, 1963. The comparative biology of Rumex obtusifolius L. and R. crispus L. including the variety trigranulatus, PhD thesis. Cardiff, UK: University of Wales.
Cavers P; Harper J, 1964. Rumex obtusifolius L. and Rumex crispus L. Journal of Ecology, 52:737-766.
Cavers P; Harper J, 1967. Studies in the dynamics of plant populations. 1. The fate of seeds and transplants introduced into various habitats. Journal of Ecology, 55:59-71.
Courtney A, 1985. Impact and control of docks in grassland. Occasional Symposium of the British Grassland Society, 18. Croydon, UK: British Crop Protection Council, 120-127.
Darlington H; Steinbauer G, 1961. The eighty- year period for Dr. Bealns seed viability experiment. American Journal of Botany, 38:379-381.
Deunff Y Le, 1971. Mise en évidence du phytochrome chez les semances de Rumex crispus L. Annales de Physiologie Végétale, 9:201-208.
Ellenberg H, 1974. Zeigerwerte der GefSsspflanzen Mitteleuropas. Scripta Geobotanica, 9. Göttingen, Germany: Göltze.
Ericsson O, 1997. Control by chemical and biological means. Borss, Sweden: LTs förlag.
Evans AW; Yates CW, 1983. Survey of the distribution and occurrence of weeds in herbage seed crops in England and Wales for 1973 compared with 1978. Journal of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, 16(2):289-309.
Frank PA, 1973. A biological control agent for Rumex crispus. Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds, Rome, 1971. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux. Slough UK, 121-126.
Hanf M, 1982. AckerunkrSuter Europas mit ihren Keimlingen und Samen. Ludwigshafen, Germany: BASF Aktiengesellschaf.
Holm E, 1983. Composition and changes of the weed flora in seed lots of ley plants. Meddelanden frsn Statens UtsSdeskontroll, 58:47-63.
Hopkins A; Matkin E; Ellis J; Peel S, 1985. South-West England grassland survey 1983: 1. Age structure and sward composition of permanent and arable grassland and their relation to manageability, fertilizer nitrogen and other management features. Grass and Forage Science, 40:349-360.
Hskansson S, 1982. Multiplication, growth and persistence of perennial weeds. In: Holzner W, Numata N, eds. Biology and Ecology of Weeds. The Hague, The Netherlands: Dr W Junk Publishers, 123-135.
Hskansson S, 1995. Weeds in agricultural crops. 1. Life-forms and occurrence under Swedish conditions. Swedish Journal of Agricultural Research, 25:143-154.
Hskansson S, 1995. Weeds in agricultural crops. 3. Life-forms, C3 and C4 photosynthesis and plant families in a global perspective. Swedish Journal of Agricultural Research, 25:163-171.
Hultén E, 1950. Atlas of the Distribution of Vascular Plants in North-West Europe. Stockholm, Sweden: Esselte AB.
Korsmo E, 1930. UnkrSuter im Ackerbau der Neuzeit. Berlin, Germany: Verlag Julius Springer.
Mamarot J; Rodriguez A, 1997. Sensibilité des Mauvaises Herbes aux Herbicides. 4th edition. Paris, France: Association de Coordination Technique Agricole.
Maun M; Cavers P, 1969. Influence of photoperiod on flowering of Rumex crispus. Agronomy Journal, 61:823.
Maun M; Cavers P, 1970. Influences of soil temperature on reproduction of curly dock. Weed Science, 18:202-204.
Peel S; Hopkins A, 1980. The incidence of weeds in grassland. Proceedings of the British Crop Protection Conference - Weeds. Farnham, UK: British Crop Protection Council, 877-890.
Raunkiaer C, 1934. The Life Forms of Plants and Statistical Plant Geography. London, UK: Oxford University Press.
Rechinger KH; Akeroyd JR, 1993. 8. Rumex L. In: Tutin TG, Burges NA, Chater AO, Edmundson JR, Heywood VH, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM, Webb DA, eds. Flora Europaea Volume 1 Psilotaceae to Platanaceae, 2nd Edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 99-107.
Sarpe N; Iancu M; Roibu C, 1995. Development of various strategies to control both annual and perennial weed species in apple orchards on sandy soils. Proceedings of the British Crop Protection Conference - Weeds. Farnham, UK: British Crop Protection Council, 947-952.
Scott JK, 1990. Prospects for the biological control of Rumex species in Australia. Proceedings of the VIII International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds Rome, Italy; Istituto Sperimentale per la Patologia Vegetale, Ministero dell'Agricoltura e delle Foreste, 425-428.
Scott JK; Sagliocco JL, 1989. Biology and host-specificity of Pegomya solennis (Diptera; Anthomyiidae), a possible biological control agent for Rumex spp. in Australia. Acta Oecologica, Oecologia Applicata, 10(2):157-163.
Scott JK; Sagliocco JL, 1991. Host-specificity of a root borer, Bembecia chrysidiformis (Lep.: Sesiidae), a potential control agent for Rumex spp. (Polygonaceae) in Australia. Entomophaga, 36(2):235-244.
Spencer NR, 1981. Exploration for biotic agents for the control of Rumex crispus. Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Australia, 125-151.
Wang ZR, 1990. Farmland Weeds in China. Beijing, China: Agricultural Publishing House.
Wells MJ; Balsinhas AA; Joffe H; Engelbrecht VM; Harding G; Stirton CH, 1986. A catalogue of problem plants in South Africa. Memoirs of the botanical survey of South Africa No 53. Pretoria, South Africa: Botanical Research Institute.
Williams J, 1971. Seed polymorphism and germination. 2. The role of hybridization in germination polymorphism of Rumex crispus and Rumex obtusifolius. Weed Research, 11:12-21.
CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI
Rechinger KH, Akeroyd JR, 1993. (8. Rumex L). In: Flora Europaea Psilotaceae to Platanaceae, 1 (2nd) [ed. by Tutin TG, Burges NA, Chater AO, Edmundson JR, Heywood VH, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM, Webb DA]. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 99-107.
Saleh N A M, El-Hadidi M N, Arafa R F M, 1993. Flavonoids and anthraquinones of some Egyptian Rumex species (Polygonaceae). Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 21 (2), 301-303. DOI:10.1016/0305-1978(93)90049-W
Sarpe N, Iancu M, Roibu C, 1995. Development of various strategies to control both annual and perennial weed species in apple orchards on sandy soils. In: Brighton crop protection conference: weeds. Proceedings of an international conference, Brighton, UK, 20-23 November 1995. [Brighton crop protection conference: weeds. Proceedings of an international conference, Brighton, UK, 20-23 November 1995.], Farnham, UK: British Crop Protection Council. 947-952.
Wells M J, Balsinhas A A, Joffe H, Engelbrecht V M, Harding G, Stirton C H, 1986. A catalogue of problem plants in southern Africa incorporating the national weed list of South Africa. Memoirs, Botanical Survey of South Africa. v + 658pp.
Distribution MapsTop of page
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