What is yellow dock?

Bitter dock

Bitter dock (Rumex obtusifolius)

Many folks like to use yellow dock to make personal tinctures.  There are two species of dock which are both referred to as “yellow dock” and which are both used for medicinal purposes.  The common name of yellow dock refers to the beautiful yellow color of the root — visible when you cut into it.

The two species of dock which we’ll review here are Bitter dock (Rumex obtusifolius) which is pictured above and Curly dock (Rumex crispus) which looks like this:

Curly dock

Curly dock (Rumex crispus)

I have found two primary ways to distinguish between these species.  The first is the look of the plant’s lower leaves.  Bitter dock — also called broad-leaved dock — has leaves which are fairly “flat” across the surface.

Bitter dock leaf

Bitter dock (Rumex obtusifolius)

Curly dock — also called curled dock — has leaves with lots of “ruffles” across the leaf and along the edges.  The leaves are also lance-shaped as compared to the broad leaves of bitter dock.

Curly dock leaf

Curly dock (Rumex crispus)

A second distinguishing characteristic requires you to look very closely at the dock’s seeds (its “fruit”).  Bitter dock has sharp points, or spines, on the edges of its fruit’s wings.

Bitter dock flower stalk

Bitter dock (Rumex obtusifolius)

Bitter dock fruit

Bitter dock (Rumex obtusifolius)

Curly dock has wings of the fruit which are smooth-edged — in contrast to its curly-edged leaves.

Curly dock flower stalk

Curly dock (Rumex crispus)

Curly dock fruit

Curly dock (Rumex crispus)

Since the seeds and seed stalks persist through the winter season, you can identify this plant by the fruit’s wings even in the winter.

Bitter dock fruit in winter

Bitter dock (Rumex obtusifolius)

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3 Responses to What is yellow dock?

  1. Joanne says:

    So helpful, thanks!

  2. ian says:

    i had stinging netel and dock plant helpd

  3. edwinrfrost says:

    What kind of doc lives in central alberta ? I found one that tasted like horse radish and one that tasted more like a asperigus. I like the stem of the spicy one.

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