Curly Dock

Curly Dock
Curly Dock. Rumex crispus.
Polygonaceae, the buckwheat, smartweed, or knotweed family.

Plant: Erect, branching plant, 1' to as much as 4' high, bearing a branching, spike-like cluster of tiny green or pinkish flowers above a base of narrow, very wavy leaves. The distinctive dark brown seed head is prominent in late summer and fall. Perennial.
Flowers: Tiny, green to pinkish flowers about 1/6", forming a dense, branching, spike-like raceme at the top of the plant. Individual florets have a three-fold symmetry technically consisting of six sepals in two ranks, and no petals.
Leaves: Mostly basal, narrowly ovate to lanceolate, to 8" long, with very wavy (undulate) margins. Some leaves branch off the stem: these are arranged alternately.
Fruit: Small seeds enclosed by three dark brown "wings" borne in a prominent branching, dark-brown cluster that remains standing well after the leaves have withered.
Blooming: June-August
Habitat: Fields, roadsides, waste places.

Comments: Introduced from Eurasia, this relative of buckwheat is a common weed, growing especially in recently disturbed ground. The branching, dark brown seed head is a common and distinctive sight in fall fields. The very young leaves are edible, and slightly acid tasting. They can be used in salads or boiled as a potherb. The sour taste is due to oxalic acid, so large amounts should probably not be eaten without boiling in two or three waters to remove the compound. The seeds of some docks were supposedly eaten by certain native American groups, and might be edible ground into meal if they could be efficiently separated from the the surrounding wings.

Where to find it: Mainly near the western border of the park adjacent to the Islamic center, probably due to the recently disturbed ground in that area.