James H. Schutte
Plant Common Name
The often weedy herbs in the genus Rumex consist of approximately 200 species. They are commonly called docks or sorrels and are naturally distributed across the Northern Hemisphere, though many have become naturalized elsewhere. They are clump-forming, largely unattractive plants. A few are cultivated for their visually interesting or edible leaves, such as the tangy-leaved French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) and blood red-leaved, bloody dock (Rumex sanguineus).
Most Rumex are fully deciduous and form basal rosettes of broad, upright leaves that come in various shades of green, red or purplish red. Flowering time is species dependent but all produce upright, branched spikes of ragged, unappealing, inconspicuous flowers. They tend to produce lots of viable seed and self-sow with vigor.
Cultivated Rumex tend to be easy to grow. They often prefer high to moderate sunlight and fertile to sandy soil with average to good drainage. The great majority of Rumex are field weeds destined for eradication in garden spaces. They tend to have large taproots that are best dug with a strong spade.