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Curly Dock

Common Name: Curly Dock.

Scientific Name: Rumex Crispus.

What to look for?  Curly Dock is a tall, erect, weedy plant. In the spring, it consists of a rosette of green, oblong, basal leaves. During summer, a tall, branchless stalk bolts from this rosette. Atop each stem is a terminal cluster of small, yellowish- or reddish-green flowers. Each towering cluster has as many as twenty or more flowers. Each flower matures into a dry fruit that contains a single seed. The fruit and stems of Curly Dock become dark brown with maturity. The rather large seeds are dark brown and are distributed to some extent by wind or water while adhering to the membranous wings of the fruit. This plant spread by reseeding itself. The root system consists of a stout taproot.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Curly Docks pop up sporadically around our meadow areas at Carillon Stonegate Pond and scattered in the restored prairie at Stonegate Park.

How big are they? The Curly Dock generally grows from one (1) to three (3) feet tall. The oblong leaves are approximately six (6) inches long and two (2) inches across. The two (2) inch long flower clusters have tiny, individual flowers that no more than one-eighth of an inch in length.

Where do they grow and thrive? Curly Dock is a native of Europe. Curly Dock can be found across the U.S. as well as the globe. It is considered a weed in more than 40 countries. Curly Dock is common in pastures, meadows, prairies, orchards, lawns, and home gardens as well as along roadsides and waste areas.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the Curly Dock occurs during the summer and lasts about a month.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? Because the flowers are cross-pollinated by wind, they attract very few insect pollinators. Various birds eat the seeds of the Curly Dock, including Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds. The foliage of these plants is bitter and avoided by other animals.

Interesting Facts About the Curly Dock:

  • Curly Dock may also be called Yellow Dock, Sour Dock, or Narrowleaf Dock, depending on where you live.

  • Curly Dock is the most common and weediest Dock in Illinois.

  • The Curly Dock is considered a noxious weed in several states, including Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota.

  • Docks were widely eaten during the Depression, appreciated for their tart, lemony flavor, their abundance.

  • A single plant can produce 60,000 seeds, some of which germinate readily, while others can remain viable in the soil for over 80 years.

For more information on the Curly Dock and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, Michigan State University Extension, and The Ohio State University Weed Guide.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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