Herbs & Plants

Rumex alpinus

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Botanical Name :Rumex alpinus
Family: Polygonaceae
Genus:     Rumex
Species: R. alpinus
Order:     Caryophyllales

Synonyms: Herb Patience, Passion’s Dock.

Common Name :Monk’s-rhubarb, Munk’s rhubarb or Alpine dock

Habitat :Rumex alpinus is native to Central and Southern Europe and to Western Asia. It is naturalized in Britain.It can be found in arable land, fields, yards, rubbish dumps, roadsides and shores.This species prefers high-altitude environments rich in nitrates, at elevation of up to 2,000 to 2,400 metres (6,600 to 7,900 ft) above sea level.

Rumex alpinus is a perennial plant with a creeping rhizome. It can reach a height of 60 to 200 centimetres (24 to 79 in). The stem is erect, striated and unbranched until just below the inflorescence. The leaves are very large, ovate-round, with long stout leaf stalks and irregular margins. The basal leaves have a hairless upper surface but have some hairs beside the veins on the lower surface. The upper leaves are alternate and are smaller and more elongated. Where their stalks meet the stem there is a membranous ochrea formed by the fusion of two stipules into a sheath which surrounds the stem and has a ragged upper margin. The flowers are arranged in much-branched, dense terminal compound panicles. The flowers are dioecious and anemophilous. The perianth segments are in two whorls of three. The outer ones are recurved and the inner ones form fruit valves, which are roundly, wider than long, with cordate bases and entire margins. There are six stamens, a pistil formed of three fused carpels, and three styles.

click to see the pictures

It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in July, and the seeds ripen from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind.The fruits are brown, three-sided achenes.

There are about ten or eleven kinds of native Docks.

A very easily grown and tolerant plant, it succeeds in most soils, preferring a moist moderately fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position. Hardy to about -20°c. Alpine dock was at one time cultivated for its edible leaves, though it has now fallen out of favour to be replaced by less strong-tasting plants. This is a pity because it is a very productive and useful vegetable and can produce its leaves all through the winter if the weather is not too severe. A very important plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies.

Seed – sow spring in a cold frame. The seed can also be sown as soon as it is ripe when it will germinate rapidly and will provide edible leaves from early spring the following year. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring. Division is easy at almost any time of the year, though the plants establish more rapidly in the spring. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, ensuring that there is at least one growth bud on each section of root. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Edible Uses:
Leaves are eaten raw or cooked. They can also be kept dried for later use. A strong flavour, the leaves can be used in salads in late autumn to the spring, but are better cooked like spinach. The fresh leaves can be available for most months of the year, only dying down for a short period in severe winters[K]. The leaves often become bitter in the summer. In taste trials, this has proved to be a very popular autumn and spring cooked leaf, making an excellent spinach.

Medicinal Uses:
The root is astringent and laxative. It has a regulatory effect on the digestive system, similar to but weaker than rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum). It can act either as a laxative or a cure for diarrhoea according to dosage. The root is harvested in early spring and dried for later use.

Other Uses:
Dye is made from the root. Brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots, they do not need a mordant

Known Hazards:  Plants can contain quite high levels of oxalic acid, which is what gives the leaves of many members of this genus an acid-lemon flavour. Perfectly alright in small quantities, the leaves should not be eaten in large amounts since the oxalic acid can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The oxalic acid content will be reduced if the plant is cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition
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


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