Rumex obtusifolius

Botanical Name :Rumex obtusifolius
Family: Polygonaceae
Genus: Rumex
Species: R. obtusifolius
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Common Names :Broad-leaved Dock, Bitter Dock, Bluntleaf Dock,Round-Leaved Dock, Dock Leaf or Butter Dock

Habitat :Rumex obtusifolius is  native to Europe but can now be found in the United States and many other countries around the world.Waste ground, hedgerows and field margins. A common weed of cultivated land on acid or calcareous soils.

Description:
Rumex obtusifolius is a perennial weed.It is easily recognizable by its very large leaves, some of the lower leaves having red stems. The edges of the leaves are slightly “crisped” or wavy. The foliage of the plant can grow to about 18 inches in height. The stems have nodes covered by an ocrea, a thin, paper-like membrane – a characteristic of the Polygonaceae family.

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Large clusters of racemes contain green flowers that change to red as they mature. They are held on a single stalk that grows above the leaves and blooms June through September. The seeds produced are reddish-brown.

Seedlings can be identified by the oval leaves with red stems and rolled leaves sprouting from the center of the plant.

Rumex crispus – curly dock – is very similar in appearance but with thinner and wavier leaves. In more detail, the calyx of curly dock has smooth margins while the calyx of broadleaf dock has horned margins.

Cultivation: Waste ground, hedgerows and field margins. A common weed of cultivated land on acid or calcareous soils.

Propagation: Seed – sow spring in situ. Division in spring.

Medicinal uses:
The ‘milk’ of the dock leaf is known to contain tannins and oxalic acid, which is an astringent. In some parts of the United Kingdom nettle stings are said to be cured by vigorously rubbing a dock leaf onto the sting, and ‘dock leaves’ as they are known are often found growing next to or near where nettles are found. A tincture of dock is helpful for problems of the menopause. According to folk remedies, dock root has a pronounced detoxing effect on the liver and it cleanses the skin.

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Studies have validated the traditional prescription of bitter dock tea as a laxative.  The root was steeped and applied to skin eruptions, especially for children.  The root contains tannin and is astringent and blood purifier. A tea made from the roots has been used in the treatment of jaundice, whooping cough, boils and bleeding. An infusion of the root has been used as a wash, especially for children, to treat skin eruptions. One report says that the root has been used as a contraceptive to stop menstruation.

The leaves are often applied externally as a rustic remedy in the treatment of blisters, burns and scalds. The root contains tannin and is astringent and blood purifier. A tea made from the roots has been used in the treatment of jaundice, whooping cough, boils and bleeding. An infusion of the root has been used as a wash, especially for children, to treat skin eruptions. One report says that the root has been used as a contraceptive to stop menstruation. The root is harvested in early spring and dried for later use.

Other Uses:
In George Eliot‘s Adam Bede, set in the early 19th century, broad dock leaves are used to wrap farmhouse butter.Yellow, dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots of this plant. They do not need a mordant.

Known Hazards:
Broadleaf dock is considered a weed and is slightly poisonous. It is designated an “injurious weed” under the UK Weeds Act 1959. Livestock have been known to get sick after feeding on it. But eradicating the plants is difficult. The perennial plant can have a deep taproot reaching 5 feet down. Also, the milk of the plant has been known to cause mild dermatitis.

Seeds have toothed wing structures, allowing them to be dispersed by wind or water, and also allow them to attach to animals or machinery to be spread great distances. They can lie dormant for years before germination, making vigilant pulling or tilling essential.

First year plants can seed, making early detection important for eradication.

The main weaknesses of Broadleaf are its poor competition, crowding causes flowering to be delayed for up to three years, and its susceptibility to disturbance. Frequent tilling will disrupt roots and kill seedlings and even older plants. The plant also thrives in moist environments and improved drainage can also help control its growth.

It has also been an invasive species of the Great lakes region where it was first sighted in 1840

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumex_obtusifolius
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm
http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/r/rumex-obtusifolius=round-leaved-dock.php
http://www.hear.org/pier/imagepages/singles/Ridderzuring_bloeiwijze_Rumex_obtusifolius.htm
http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages/species/ruob.htm

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