Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Rumex obtusifolius
(broad-leaved dock)



Rumex obtusifolius (broad-leaved dock)


  • Last modified
  • 08 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Rumex obtusifolius
  • Preferred Common Name
  • broad-leaved dock
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • R. obtusifolius can be an invasive species on account of its prolific production of seeds, which can remain viable for a long time, its capability for vegetative reproduction, and adaptability to different environments. Mature plants are capable of w...

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Mature plants with ripe seed heads.
TitleMature plants
CaptionMature plants with ripe seed heads.
CopyrightKatarzyna Biala/IMUZ
Mature plants with ripe seed heads.
Mature plantsMature plants with ripe seed heads.Katarzyna Biala/IMUZ
Foliage damaged by the beetle, Gastrophysa viridula (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae).
CaptionFoliage damaged by the beetle, Gastrophysa viridula (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae).
CopyrightKatarzyna Biala/IMUZ
Foliage damaged by the beetle, Gastrophysa viridula (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae).
LeavesFoliage damaged by the beetle, Gastrophysa viridula (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae).Katarzyna Biala/IMUZ


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Rumex obtusifolius L.

Preferred Common Name

  • broad-leaved dock

International Common Names

  • English: bitter dock
  • Spanish: acedera de hojas obtusas; acedera obtusifolia; romaza de hoja grande
  • French: patience à feuilles obtuses
  • Portuguese: labaca-obtusa; manteigueira

Local Common Names

  • Czech Republic: stovik tupolisty
  • Germany: Stumfblättriger Ampfer
  • Greece: lapatho
  • Italy: lingua di capra; romice a foglie ottuse; romice comune; romice dei tetti
  • Japan: ezonogishigishi
  • Netherlands: zuring, ridder-
  • Poland: Szczaw tepolistny
  • Sweden: skraeppa, tomt-

EPPO code

  • RUMOB (Rumex obtusifolius)

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page R. obtusifolius can be an invasive species on account of its prolific production of seeds, which can remain viable for a long time, its capability for vegetative reproduction, and adaptability to different environments. Mature plants are capable of withstanding unfavourable climatic conditions, such as severe cold and drought, thanks to the deep spreading root. It is primarily a weed of grassland, and in this habitat it benefits from agricultural practices which lead to disturbance or eutrophication. It reduces production from grassland and lowers the feeding value of the sward to animals.

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Polygonales
  •                         Family: Polygonaceae
  •                             Genus: Rumex
  •                                 Species: Rumex obtusifolius

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The Latin name Rumex obtusifolius given by Linnaeus seems to be the only name in use in modern literature. The species is highly variable. Subspecies described by Rechinger and Akeroyd (1993) include:

- subsp. obtusifolius (subsp. agrestis) (Fries) Èelak - native in Western Europe
- subsp. subalpinus (Schur.) Èelak - occurring in the Carpathians and mountains of the Balkan peninsula and in Western Asia
- subsp. transiens (Simonk.) Rech. f. - native in Central Europe, where the areas of subsp. obtusifolius and subsp. sylvestris overlap
- subsp. sylvestris - native of Europe from Italy and Sweden eastwards and in the Caucasus.

Recently, Stace (1997) recommended a division into varieties for the British Isles:

- var. obtusifolius
- var. microcarpus Dierb. (subsp. sylvestris (Wallr.) Celak.)
- var. transiens (Simonk.) Kubat (subsp. transiens (Simonk.) Rech. f.)

Characteristic morphological features of plant leaves are reflected in the Latin word 'obtusifolius', which means 'with blunt leaves', and common names in many languages, such as French, Polish and Czech, are a translation of this word.


Top of page R. obtusifolius is an erect perennial herb, 40-150 cm tall, with a stout, branched taproot, extending to a depth of 150 cm in soils that allow deep root penetration. Over the taproot, adult plants develop a fleshy underground stem, 3-5 cm long, with a branched crown. Basal rosette leaves and leafy stems develop from the crown. Stems are stiff, glabrous, ribbed with reddish blotches. Basal and lower leaves are petioled, ovate-oblong, with a cordate base and a rounded apex, and have a large and paper-like ochrea. Upper leaves are narrow, ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate at the top with a pointed apex. Lamina are 10-30 cm long and 6-15 cm wide, becoming progressively smaller upwards, slightly wavy along their margins, green, may be reddish-veined, turning more reddish-purple with age.

Inflorescences are 15-50 cm long racemes, with alternate leaves without petioles among the branches. Flowers, arranged in whorls, are small, with 6 inner valves, sometimes called tepals, which are 3-6 mm long and 2-3 mm wide, triangular to oblong-ovate, on pedicels 5-10 mm long, green in the beginning and reddish-brown at maturity. Fruit is a triangular achene, enclosed within three inner perianth segments, up to 5-6 mm long and 3 mm wide, with three to five teeth. The seeds are polymorphic, differing in size.

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated


Top of page R. obtusifolius is native to Eurasia but has been introduced to all continents. It is distributed mainly in temperate regions but can also be found inside the Arctic Circle and at high altitude in equatorial areas. Hultén (1950) describes it as a circumpolar plant and gives its northernmost limits as 68°N latitude.

Distribution Table

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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.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


AfghanistanPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
ArmeniaPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
AzerbaijanPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
ChinaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
IndiaPresentIntroducedKlimes and Kapahi, 1990
IndonesiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-JavaPresentIntroducedCavers and Harper, 1964
IranPresentHolm et al., 1979
IraqPresentHolm et al., 1979
JapanWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Nishida, 2002
Korea, DPRPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
Korea, Republic ofPresentIntroducedShim et al., 2001
PakistanPresentAllah et al., 2006
TurkeyPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979


LesothoPresentIntroduced Invasive Wells et al., 1986
NamibiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Wells et al., 1986
South AfricaPresentIntroduced Invasive Wells et al., 1986

North America

CanadaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
-British ColumbiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Cranston et al., 2000
GreenlandPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
MexicoWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
USAWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
-AlabamaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-AlaskaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-ArizonaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-ArkansasPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-ColoradoPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-ConnecticutPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-DelawarePresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-GeorgiaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-IdahoPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-IllinoisPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-IndianaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-IowaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-KansasPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-KentuckyPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-LouisianaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MainePresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MarylandPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MassachusettsPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MichiganPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MinnesotaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MississippiPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MissouriPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MontanaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-NebraskaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-New HampshirePresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-New JerseyPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-New MexicoPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-New YorkPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-North CarolinaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-OhioPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-OklahomaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-OregonPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-South CarolinaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-South DakotaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-TennesseePresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-TexasPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-UtahPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-VermontPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-VirginiaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-WashingtonPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-West VirginiaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-WisconsinPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-WyomingPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002

Central America and Caribbean

GuatemalaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
BrazilPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
-ParanaPresentKozlowski, 2002
ChilePresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
ColombiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
PeruPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
UruguayPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979
VenezuelaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979


AlbaniaPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
AustriaPresentNative Invasive Poetsch and Krautzer, 2002
BelarusPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
BelgiumWidespreadNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
Bosnia-HercegovinaPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
BulgariaPresentNative Invasive Rechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
CroatiaPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
Czech RepublicPresentMikulka and Kneifelová-Korcáková, 2006
Czechoslovakia (former)PresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
DenmarkPresentNative Invasive Rechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
EstoniaPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
Faroe IslandsPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
FinlandPresentIntroducedRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
FrancePresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
-CorsicaPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
GermanyPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
GibraltarPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
GreecePresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
HungaryPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
IrelandPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
ItalyPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
LatviaPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
LithuaniaPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
LuxembourgPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
MacedoniaPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
MoldovaPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
MonacoPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
NetherlandsPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
NorwayPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
PolandPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
PortugalPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
-AzoresPresentIntroducedRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
RomaniaPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
Russian FederationPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
-Central RussiaPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
-Northern RussiaPresentIntroducedRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
-Southern RussiaPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
SerbiaPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
SlovakiaPresentNovák and Slamka, 2003
SloveniaPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
SpainPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
-Balearic IslandsPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
SwedenPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
SwitzerlandPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
UKPresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
-Channel IslandsPresentNativeRechinger and Akeroyd, 1993
-England and WalesPresentHopkins and Johnson, 2003
UkrainePresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979
Yugoslavia (former)PresentNative Invasive Holm et al., 1979


AustraliaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
-TasmaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive TAS, 2003
New ZealandPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page R. obtusifolius has been described as a 'follower of man' by Cavers and Harper (1964), who attribute its absence from high altitude areas in the UK to the lack of land disturbance. The original dates of its introduction are not normally noted. Vibrans (1998) reports that it was already present in Mexico a few years after the arrival of the first Europeans and was described in the Codice Florentino, which was written around 1550 in Mexico.

Risk of Introduction

Top of page In the UK, R. obtusifolius is specified as one of the five injurious weeds in the 1959 Weeds Act which require prevention from seeding, and its control can be enforced on an occupier of land (DEFRA, 2002). In the USA it is listed as an invasive weed (USDA-NRCS, 2002).


Top of page R. obtusifolius is present in cool temperate permanent grasslands throughout the world (Holm et al., 1977). On agricultural land it commonly grows in meadows and pastures, abandoned fields, field borders, hedgerows and orchards. It also occurs as a ruderal on roadsides, ditchbanks, and along riversides and streams, and can be found in woodland margins and forest clearings.

Habitat List

Top of page
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page R. obtusifolius is not normally a weed of crops. However, Pino et al. (1998) report that in recent decades the species has seriously invaded irrigated lucerne (= alfalfa) (Medicago sativa) crops in Spain. It was also noted in lucerne crops in Tasmania (TAD, 1974) and New Zealand (Askarian et al., 1993).

Biology and Ecology

Top of page Genetics

The chromosome number is 2n = 40. Hybridization between R. obtusifolius and other members of the subgenus Rumex occurs frequently (Cavers and Harper, 1964). The commonest hybrid is R. crispus x R. obtusifolius, described as R. acutus by Linnaeus and also as R. pratensis Mert & Koch. It can be recognized by intermediate leaves and tepals. This is the most fertile Rumex hybrid, and produces some viable seeds. Other hybrids, with R. longifolius, R. confertus, and R. patientia, are virtually sterile.

Physiology and Phenology

Germination of R. obtusifolius seeds can occur in any month of the year (Cavers and Harper, 1964), although it is concentrated in March-April and in August-October. The species shows very high sensitivity to light; germination of its seeds is controlled by phytochrome (Taylorson and Hendricks, 1972) and is more rapid in the presence of light (Milberg, 1997). Daylight or near-red light stimulates germination, whereas far-red light, increased by the presence of a leaf canopy, inhibits it (Takaki et al., 1981). Seeds can also germinate in the absence of light after an exposure to alternating temperatures (van Assche and Vanlerberghe, 1989); this accounts for the spring flush of germination when the temperature fluctuations in the soil are very large. Constant temperatures induce secondary dormancy (Roberts and Totterdell, 1981). Benvenuti et al. (2001) report that thermal optima for germination are between 20 and 25°C in light or in darkness. In their study seedlings did not emerge when seeds were buried at a depth of more than 8 cm. Seeds exhibit great within- and between-plant polymorphism, which enables germination under various environmental conditions (Honek and Martinkovà, 2002). Unlike seeds buried in the autumn in the soil that pass through annual dormancy/non-dormancy cycles, the seeds continuously shed from dry standing shoots of R. obtusifolius become germinable all year round, after a short period of burial.

In the seedling year most plants remain at the rosette stage and a long stout rootstock is produced, but flowering and seed set do not normally take place until the second year, unless competition from other plants is weak. A dense sward limits the juvenile growth and establishment of R. obtusifolius in grassland (Jeangros and Nösberger, 1990). The establishment of young plants is favoured by frequent mowing (Hongo, 1989). Adult R. obtusifolius plants in the close vicinity of the seedlings exert a negative influence on their survival (Makuchi and Kanda, 1980).

The plant is a hemicryptophyte and after overwintering regrowth from the rosette usually takes place in late February-March. New shoots are produced from buds on the underground stem. Inflorescences are first formed in early May and may be initiated until the first severe frost (Cavers and Harper, 1964). Flowering and seed set can occur twice in one growing season, first flowers appearing in May-June and the second, after cutting and regrowth of shoots, in August-September. Individual plants may live for at least 5 years. Inflorescences are produced every year under normal conditions and plants do not usually die after producing seed.

Reproductive Biology

Reproduction is amphimictic. Flowers have no nectar and are mainly wind-pollinated. Most individuals are highly self-fertile, although there is variation in this respect between plants.

Propagation is mainly by seeds, produced in very large numbers, varying from less than 100 to 60,000 per plant in a single year. Fruits can be blown for a considerable distance by wind, be carried floating on water, and be dispersed via the digestive system of birds and animals (Cavers and Harper, 1964). Spines on the fruit assist in long-distance distribution by animals, attached to fur or feathers, and by humans.

Seeds may remain viable for a long period when buried deeply in the soil; 83% germinated after burial for 21 years (Toole and Brown, 1946).

In a study carried out by Pino et al. (1995), R. obtusifolius plants showed a clonal growth system in which the roots branch after the first flowering and produce adventitious roots, which accumulate reserves over the next 2 years and separate from the original taproot in the fifth year. This 'phalanx' type of growth allows the plant to reproduce in areas where seedling establishment is inhibited by competition for space. It also has the capacity of vegetative propagation from fragments of root or underground stem split up by cultivation. This is a less important method of reproduction than through seeds; it can, however, significantly facilitate the spread of the species locally (Brock, 1972; Pino et al., 1995).

Environmental Requirements

Growth and development are promoted by climatic conditions typical for temperate regions. Cavers and Harper (1964) state that for the UK there does not seem to be any climatic limitation of the species. It is present inside the Arctic Circle in Northern Scandinavia, can be found at various altitudes and was recorded at 3200 m in Mexico.

R. obtusifolius can grow on a wide range of soils, except peat (Cavers and Harper, 1964). Ellenberg (1974) classifies it as indifferent to pH but its growth is inhibited on the most acid soils. It is a typically nitrophilous plant (Melzer et al., 1984) and shows high abundance on soils with high potassium concentrations (Humphreys et al., 1999). It is favoured by humid conditions, but mature plants with a well-established root system are capable of withstanding severe drought periods.


No mycorrhizal root symbionts have been recorded.

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
0 0 0 0

Air Temperature

Top of page
Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 6 12
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 12 24
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) -5 6


Top of page
ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall6001800mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Uniform

Soil Tolerances

Top of page

Soil drainage

  • free
  • impeded
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Natural enemies

Top of page
Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Apion frumentarium Herbivore
Armillaria mellea Pathogen
Armillaria ostoyae Pathogen
Chamaesphecia doryliformis Herbivore Roots/Stems
Gastrophysa atrocyanea Herbivore Leaves
Gastrophysa viridula Herbivore Leaves
Pegomya solennis Herbivore Leaves
Ramularia rubella Pathogen Leaves
Uromyces rumicis Pathogen Leaves
Venturia rumicis Pathogen Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Cavers and Harper (1964) give a list of parasites and predators of R. obtusifolius, which includes 32 insect species and 12 fungi species. Shim et al. (2001) record 85 insect species associated with R. obtusifolius, a naturalized plant in Korea. In the UK the most studied invertebrate herbivore species is a chrysomelid beetle Gastrophysa viridula, suggested as a potential agent for biological control. In Japan, a similar capacity was shown for G. atrocyanea (Miyazaki and Naito, 1973). In natural conditions, grazing by herbivores does not result in the total destruction of R. obtusifolius plants. Of plant pathogens, a rust fungus Uromyces rumicis, specific to the genus, and the honey fungus Armillaria mellea, can cause particular damage to the weed.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

Propagation is mainly by seeds produced in very large numbers. Long-distance dispersal is achieved by wind and water.

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

By humans and animals, attached with the spines on the fruit. Ingested seeds are resistant to digestion and are spread in the droppings (SAC, 1986).

Agricultural Practices

Cultivation, which causes root fragmentation, facilitates vegetative reproduction of the weed and aids its local spread. Nishida (2002) attributes invasion of R. obtusifolius into agricultural land in Japan to application of manure from cattle fed on imported feed contaminated with weed seeds.

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Soil, sand and gravelRivers Yes

Impact Summary

Top of page
Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) None
Crop production Negative
Environment (generally) None
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production Negative
Native fauna None
Native flora None
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None


Top of page R. obtusifolius is considered to be one of the most troublesome weeds in intensively managed permanent grassland (Holm et al., 1977; Jeangros and Nösberger, 1990; Niggli et al., 1993). It reduces production from grassland by reducing grass yields. Oswald and Haggar (1983) showed that densities of 5-10 plants/m² resulted in a reduction in total grass herbage of up to 30%. In infrequently cut swards the effect on grass yield is directly related to the percentage ground cover, with an approximately 1% decline in grass DM yield for each per cent ground cover of the weed (Courtney, 1985). Courtney and Johnston (1978) report that, on average, both the palatability and the digestibility are about 20% less for R. obtusifolius than for grasses. Therefore its feeding value for the grazing animal is only about 65% that of grasses. Digestibility of woody stems and inflorescences is only about 50% that of grass; intake by both cattle and sheep falls significantly after flowering (McGhie et al., 1983; Derrick et al., 1993).

Environmental Impact

Top of page Studies of Lutts et al. (1987), Carballeira et al. (1988) and Carral et al. (1988) showed that the presence of R. obtusifolius plants exerts allelopathic control over gemination and root growth of grasses. The area and the intensity of the effect increased with the size of individual plants. Roots are resistant to decomposition and infection by some fungi and bacteria due to the presence of organic acids and naphthalene and anthraquinone derivatives in the tissue (Kasai et al., 1982).

Impact: Biodiversity

Top of page Impacts of R. obtusifolius as an alien species on native plant communities have not been documented.

Social Impact

Top of page No relevant instances have been documented.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult/costly to control


Top of page Trichopoulou et al. (2000) report that R. obtusifolius is used in the traditional diet of rural Greece as a wild edible green, consumed in various ways. Analysis of its flavonoid content shows that it contains twice the amount of quercetin contained in onions (Allium cepa).

A study in Zealand (Waghorn and Jones, 1989) suggested that condensed tannin in R. obtusifolius prevents bloat in cattle.

Harada and Hatanaka (2001) report that it can be a useful plant for reducing thallium (Tl) concentration in the soil.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page The species which can be most readily confused with R. obtusifolius is R. crispus, especially as it occurs in similar habitats. Lamina of R. crispus leaves are narrower and have strongly wavy margins. The taproot in R. crispus is usually smaller and less branched in the upper part. Tepals of the flowers are heart-shaped with entire margins, whereas in R. obtusifolius they are triangular and have toothed margins. Young R. obtusifolius plants may be confused with R. conglomeratus on the account of morphological similarity of tepals with indistinct teeth and leaves without a pronounced heart-shaped base.

Prevention and Control

Top of page Cultural Control

In Japan, Sakanoue et al. (1995) used mixed grazing by goats and cows on a permanent pasture, and after 3 years reported effective control of R. obtusifolius by goats through a process of defoliation, suppression of propagation, and population decrease. SAC (1986) recommend, as a preventive measure, maintaining a dense, well-managed grassland sward, which can minimise infestation since seedlings of R. obtusifolius are poor competitors and seed germination is inhibited in the presence of a dense leaf canopy. The choice of high-tillering and persistent grasses further reduces competition from R. obtusifolius. Moreover, excessive treading and poaching in pastures should be avoided.

In a study carried out in Austria, Poetsch and Krautzer (2002) obtained a significant reduction of seed germination within three weeks of composting of farmyard manure, and they state that it can therefore be seen as an efficient tool to interrupt the R. obtusifolius seed cycle on grassland farms. Storage in silage significantly reduces the viability of mature seeds (Masuda et al., 1984). Humphreys et al. (1997) report that after being subjected to 100 days in silage, seeds were non-viable. Humphreys et al. (1999) discuss the possibility of limiting the abundance of R. obtusifolius in grassland by maintaining moderate soil K concentration. Balanced fertilizer use, especially N and K, may prevent its spread (SAC, 1986).

Mechanical Control

Hand-pulling is not normally practicable and usually does not result in the complete removal of the root (SAC, 1986). Plants which have been pulled out should be burned to prevent seed dispersal. Dierauer and Thomas (1994) state that the only effective method is the removal of the entire root or cutting the root to at least 10 cm below ground. In grassland, the cutting frequency of the sward affects abundance of the weed. Courtney (1985), Niggli et al. (1993) and Hopkins and Johnson (2002) showed that under frequent defoliation (every 3-4 weeks) dock plants were less competitive and their herbage production was considerably lower than when cut every 6-7 weeks. The height of cut had no consistent effect on R. obtusifolius yields. Cavers and Harper (1964) suggest that a series of rotary cultivations may be effective for the elimination of the weed, however, the timing of land management practices has to be taken into account, as cultivation in late summer may promote the spread of the weed by shortening the length of time between germination and seed production (Weaver and Cavers, 1979). Ploughing followed by fallowing and repeated cultivation during spring and early summer is recommended by the SAC (1986) to exhaust the root reserves and provide control of young seedlings.

Chemical Control

Asulam is the most widely used herbicide for control of mature plants in grassland (Brock, 1972; Oswald and Haggar, 1976; SAC, 1986). Other recommended compounds include thifensulfuron, fluroxypyr, triclopyr, dicamba and mecoprop. Effective application of herbicides requires an adequate leaf area present. Spraying can be carried out in May before harvesting or in the following regrowth. For heavy infestations a follow-up spraying may be necessary 8 to 12 months later (SAC, 1986). Seedlings can be controlled by MCPA, MCPB, 2,4-D or mecoprop and are most readily killed at the two- to three-leaf stage. When the level of infestation is small and the plants are scattered, selective herbicide treatment with rope wick applicators can be used (SAC, 1986).

Biological Control

Gastrophysa viridula has been suggested as a possible agent of biological control (Speight and Whittaker, 1987). Although heavy grazing by this beetle reduces leaf area and overall biomass (Bentley and Whittaker, 1979) and affects the number and weight of seeds (Bentley et al., 1980), it is unlikely that G. viridula, acting alone, could be an effective control agent for the weed (Speight and Whittaker, 1987). In Tasmania the clearwing dock moth Chamaesphecia doryliphormis was introduced in 1997 at 2 sites to provide control of R. obtusifolius. However, there is no further information on the establishment and efficacy of this organism (TAS, 2003).

Studies involving fungal pathogens have not developed control methods, though the possibilities have been discussed for Uromyces rumicis (Schubiger et al., 1986) and Ramullaria rubella (Huber-Meinicke et al., 1989). Hughes et al. (1996) investigated the effects of infection of Armillaria mellea and A. ostoyae, which attack the root system, and reported that the taproots were extensively rotted. Moreover, there are complex interactions between the natural enemies. Hatcher and Paul (2000) showed that grazing by G. viridula reduces natural infection of R. obtusifolius by fungal pathogens, which attack leaves.

Integrated Control

A combination of different control practices and chemical techniques can be used to reduce infestation of mature plants. Repeated discing or rotary cultivation breaks up the taproots and the suppressed growth from root fragments allows more effective control by herbicides (SAC, 1986). An integrated programme of control involving single or repeated spraying with asulam or glyphosate, discing and sowing of grass-legume mixtures carried out in Poland is described by Biala (1998a, b) for heavily infested grassland.


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