Curly Dock: Why was it introduced?

Why was Curly Dock ever introduced to our part of the world? It’s ugly and it’s invasive and it’s hard to get rid of. I see it grow wherever the ground is disturbed or lawns are neglected, adding to the ugliness. Does this plant have traditional medicinal values so that someone did not think they could live in the “New World” without it? Or did it hitch-hike its way in here with imported cargo?

If I sound bitter, it’s because I was raised on the farm where one has a seriously negative relationship with it–it takes over cropland and garden space. My apologies to anyone who values the plant. Please explain why I should value it, too. I want to learn. Thank you.

This photo was taken last night of a lawn where the landowner neglected to cut the grass this spring.

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Are you sure it was intentionally introduced? Sometimes plants are introduced accidentally (seeds in hay bales, etc).

If it was introduced intentionally, maybe someone liked the looks, or was homesick and brought it with them.

But assuming it was intentional:

That’s going to be subjective. Apparently, some European gardens deliberately made a point to plant poison ivy, because as a new world plant they considered it “exotic”. As they say, “There’s no accounting for taste”.

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“Seeds in hay bales” would count as hitch-hiking on imported cargo, as I specified in my question. iNat says it was “Introduced in Regional Municipality of Waterloo, CA, ON: arrived in the region via anthropogenic means.” See https://inaturalist.ca/observations/118063636. Hitch-hiking counts as “anthropogenic means.” If you know that it came in via seeds in hay bales, I would appreciate you telling me that instead of challenging my premise.

I know accidental introduction by humans is still anthropogenic means, but I missed the sentence about hitchhiking, and hyperfocused on the other scenarios you asked about.

It wasn’t my intention to “challenge you”; I overlooked a sentence and was asking a question.

There’s no need to transfer your hostility for curly dock to me. :smile:

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Good question. We may never know. Its seed remain viable for a long time (everywhere said 50+ years, no source) and it could have totally been an unintentional introduction, a consequence of colonialism and global trade. There’s bit about that here with some good references: https://invasions.si.edu/nemesis/chesreport/species_summary/Rumex%20crispus

That being said, there’s much worse weeds. It’s already found in disturbed places, like lawns, and arguably is adding to the biodiversity there. The worst place it will grow is in some (already degraded) wetlands, but it’s a symptom of degradation rather than the cause. I don’t think it’s worthy of much derision unlike some weeds. It might also be edible if I remember correctly but do your own research.

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I assume it was brought over from Europe on purpose. It’s used in herbalism and it’s edible too.

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I eat the tender young leaves, in salads and as cooked greens. It’s real food. I can remember my dad teaching us kids to pick it when I was 6 or 7 years old. We would fill those big paper grocery sacks with the leaves. His grandmother taught him. He’s 87 now and still enjoys finding and eating those tender leaves. He mows the grass in shady parts of his yard just so those roots keep putting out food well into the summer. It’s one of the “big 3” wild summer greens we lived on: poke, dock, and lambsquarter. Every now and again, some nutria come into my yard and dig up every single curly dock root to eat. Then I have to wait for seedlings to get established. So maybe you could get yourself some nutria, lol, but then I think you would have some other invasive species issues. On the other hand, the nutria are delicious, too, like the dark meat of a turkey when you roast them, or like pulled pork if you cook them in a slow cooker.

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Any organism has “value” and there shouldn’t be any explanation to this, it’s far from ugly, though I never saw an ugly plant.

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This forum is for people from all over the world, not from a certain geographic area. Can you please specify where you’re located?

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Curly dock was one of those multi-use plants that likely arrived with the first wave of European settlers. It was used as a food, medicine and for dyes. Bringing small packets of familiar seeds over probably seemed like a good insurance policy to people who really didn’t know what they were getting into. I know my great grandfather, a professional gardener, brought lots of seeds with him when he arrived with his family in 1904. He felt is was required if he was going to feed his family. Worries about invasive plants and sensitive ecosystems are a far more recent concern.

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@tiwane I guess this is the local they meant? of

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Based on your question, “why was it introduced?”, your premise is that it was introduced for a reason.Try not to be so sensitive to people’s responses.

Here, you’re actually asking for people to challenge your premise that it is ugly and worthless.

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Even if there was no intentional introduction, dock seeds are very small, and would have easily found their way into crop seed collections in Europe. Pre & early modern crop fields had way more diverse plants growing in them, simply because it wasn’t practical to totally extirpate them before herbicides and machines.

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I don’t know where it came from or how it got to my state Michigan USA.
Usually when I’m heading out walking, and I see curly dock I pick some leaves for my just-in-case pocket… it naturally soothes skin that’s been hit by stinging nettles. If fact, I often see the two growing in proximity. That’s a good enough reason for being!

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I can understand the frustration of dealing with an invasive plant, regardless of how it got here or who appreciates its values. My particular nemesis is Ailanthus (tree-of-heaven) which is more like the tree from hell. Almost impossible to fully eradicate from a yard once it’s established.

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Well, I don’t know how or why it got to the places it is, but I can tell you the reasons I like it!
The young leaves in the spring are completely delicious - I harvest them for salads, and sometimes will also dry a bunch, powder it, and mix it in with my “green powder” (dried and crushed leafy greens of various sorts, which I then throw into various things I’m cooking - it’s great for the times of year when fresh greens are harder to come by).

Historically, the roots have been used for a bunch of different medical reasons. Some herbalists I know still make use of it, particularly for digestive ailments.

The seeds are supposed to be edible and quite good, though difficult to process in any great quantity - I have not tried that one myself.

When we had animals, the goats, rabbits, and chickens loved eating the stuff, and it was one of the few plants hardy enough to keep resprouting in spite of being chomped on constantly. Wild songbirds loved the seeds as well.

Personally, I think it’s lovely looking, though I know that is quite subjective. But I feel that now more than ever, we have to let go of our ideas of “native” and “non-native” - things move around. That’s just how the natural system works. And at the rate we are destroying the climate and the planet, we need to re-think our efforts to kill everything that tries to migrate somewhere more hospitable. It’s the only way any of it is going to survive, in the long run.

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As many other users have said, curly dock is an wild edible. For more info, see this profile by Dr. Mark “Merriwether” Vordderbruggen. In fact, the vegetable common garden sorrel, Rumex acetosa, is part of the same genus. I suppose if you catch young plants where they aren’t welcome, it wouldn’t hurt to toss them in a salad. Seeds are good too, if you can separate them from their husks.

A dock I observed in my area

While some people sound the alarm over the oxalic acid in the plant (kidney stones), a lot of other vegetables like celery and spinach also have significant oxalic acid content, so it should only be a concern if consuming in large amounts or if you’re prone to kidney stones.


What really interests me about Rumex, though, is the alleged soothing effect it has with stinging nettle. I say alleged because the exact reason behind its sting-relieving is not known or backed with science (one theory is that dock leaf sap is basic, which neutralizes the acidity in the nettle sting, but this is not true), and there is a lot of contradictory information from many different sources :man_shrugging:

However, unlike a lot of other herbal remedies, there is not just significant history behind this, but also popular backing from a lot of people, who even today swear themselves on it. Probably wouldn’t do good to rub the leaf really hard since that’ll just irritate things more, but the sap might have something in it. I believe it may also work with other forms of irritation as well like poison ivy or mosquito bites (I once tried crushing the leaves and applying it on some recurring itch on my leg… it helped to the point where I forgot about that itch ten minutes later).

Granted, the truth behind this is murky and there probably other plants that help with nettle stings. However, the discussion itself is interesting enough that whenever I see a dock, I have an itch (pun intended) to take the leaves and grind them into a poultice to see if it works. That is reason enough for me to keep it around :rofl:

If you don’t want it around, what I would do is strip off all the leaves, grind them up, and then try to use it on any mosquito bite, plant rash, or itch you may be having. Though… I suppose what I would do is not what most normal people would do.


Last note: As others have said, there are probably many other plants that are more menacing than curly dock. For example, Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is not only invasive in the Americas, but if you get your skin in contact with the sap, it will strip away the skin’s natural barrier protecting it from UV light, resulting in severe burns when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Search it up… it’s not a pretty picture.

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Is its effect with stings similar to that of Plantago major?

It’s not ugly!!! :cry: :sob:

The most probable thing is it was accidentally introduced, that happens a lot with weeds, but I’ve been reading this thread and its edibleness has really surprised me.

All docks are edible, but most don’t taste too good even as young leaves, wild R. acetosa is much better.

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