Weed of the Month: Curly Dock

Curly dock

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Common name: Curly dock
Scientific name: Rumex crispus L.

Life Cycle: Perennial
Origin: Eurasia
Poisonous: Yes, but rarely

Curly dock is a stout, deep-rooted simple perennial that generally grows 2 to 4 feet—depending on the site—and is found throughout the United States. This weed grows well in alfalfa, disturbed sites, cultivated fields, ditches, and especially in compacted, overgrazed pastures.

Curly dock reproduces from seeds and shoots that form on the root crown. It spreads by lightweight seeds that wind and water can carry for long distances. Curly dock overwinters as a rosette.

One of curly dock's identifying characteristics is the papery sheath at each node on the stem. Leaves are mostly basal and narrow, and the leaf margin is curly or wavy. Flowers are greenish and inconspicuous. Fruits are brown and triangular achenes.

Mowing is usually ineffective for controlling curly dock because of its deep taproot. Control with herbicides can be challenging and usually requires multiple treatments. Consult your local Cooperative Extension Service personnel for a list of herbicidal controls in your area.

William W. Witt, PhD, a professor emeritus in plant and soil sciences at the University of Kentucky, provided this information.

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