Rumex acetosa L.

common dock

New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

Where native and non-native distributions co-occur in a county, only the native distribution is shown.

North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

Enlarge

Facts About

Common dock is an introduced weed of fields and roadsides. Also called sorrel, it is widely grown in vegetable gardens for its edible leaves.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
Flower petal color
  • green to brown
  • pink to red
Leaf type
the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaf arrangement
alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
Flower symmetry
there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
Number of sepals, petals or tepals
there are six petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
Fusion of petals
the petals are fused into a corolla tube
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry but does not split open when ripe
Fruit length
1.8–2.5 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Bulbils
    the plant does not appear to have bulbils
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
  • Flowers
    Anther attachment
    the anther is attached by its base to the filament
    Anther color
    the anthers show no hint of a pink, reddish or purplish tint
    Anther opening
    the anthers have narrow slits or furrows that run lengthwise along the anthers
    Anther spurs
    the anthers do not have spurs on them
    Calyx growth after flowering
    the calyx grows to cover or partially cover the fruit
    Calyx symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the calyx (the calyx is radially symmetrical)
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused to one another
    Cilia on petals
    the petal margins do not have cilia
    Corolla palate
    no
    Corona lobe length
    0 mm
    Epicalyx
    the flower does not have an epicalyx
    Epicalyx number of parts
    0
    Flower description
    the flower has a superior ovary, and lacks a hypanthium
    Flower number
    2–10
    Flower petal color
    • green to brown
    • pink to red
    Flower reproductive parts
    the flower has either only pollen- or only seed-producing parts
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Flowers sunken into stem
    no
    Form of style
    the flower has two or more completely separate styles
    Fringed petal edges
    the petals are not fringed
    Fused stamen clusters
    NA
    Fusion of petals
    the petals are fused into a corolla tube
    Hairs on flower stalk
    the flower stalk has no hairs on it
    Hairs on inflorescence
    the axis of the inflorescence has no hairs on it
    Horns in hoods (Asclepias)
    NA
    Hypanthium
    • the flower does not have a hypanthium
    • the flower has a hypanthium
    Inflorescence length
    10–20 mm
    Inflorescence one-sided
    the flowers are arrayed in a spiral around the inflorescence axis or branches, or occur singly, or in several ranks
    Inner tepals (Rumex)
    • one of the inner tepals has a tubercle
    • two or three of the inner tepals have tubercles
    Length of flower stalk
    2–6 mm
    Marks on petals
    there are no noticeable marks on the petals
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of branches in umbel
    0
    Number of carpels
    3
    Number of pistils
    1
    Number of sepals, petals or tepals
    there are six petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    3
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Perianth shape
    the perianth is campanulate (bell-shaped, with a tube about as long as wide, flaring at the mouth)
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are green and/or leafy in texture
    Petal folds or pleats
    the petals of the flower do not have folds or plaits
    Petal hairs (Viola)
    NA
    Petal hairs on inner/upper surface
    there are no hairs on the inner/upper petal surface
    Petal length
    3–5 mm
    Petal number
    3
    Petal shape
    • the petal outline is orbicular (roughly circular, as wide as long)
    • the petal outline is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    Petal tip shape
    the petal tip is obtuse (bluntly pointed)
    Petal tips (Cuscuta)
    NA
    Petal width
    3–4 mm
    Raceme attachment (Veronica)
    NA
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers on each plant have only carpels or only stamens, with only one type being present on each plant (dioecious)
    Sepal and petal color
    the petals and sepals are similar
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals are green or brown, and leaf-like in texture
    Sepal appendages (Oenothera)
    NA
    Sepal color
    • green to brown
    • pink to red
    Sepal length
    2–3 mm
    Sepal number
    3
    Sepal orientation
    • the sepals are curved outwards and downwards from the corolla
    • the sepals are slightly curved outwards from the corolla
    Sepal shape
    • the sepal outline is oblong (rectangular, but with rounded ends)
    • the sepal outline is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    • the sepal outline is roughly triangular
    Sepal texture
    the sepals are either very thin but flexible, like a membrane, or they are leaf-like in texture
    Sepal uniformity
    all the sepals are about the same size
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are fused to each other (not other flower parts), at least near their bases
    Stamen attachment
    the stamens are not attached to the petals or tepals
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not attached to one another
    Staminodes
    there are no staminodes on the flower
    Style petal-like
    the styles are not petal-like
    Umbel flower reproductive parts
    NA
    Upper lip of bilabiate corolla
    NA
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene relative orientation
    the achenes are perpendicular to the plane of the perianth (vertical)
    Achene surface (Polygonum)
    NA
    Achene type
    the fruit is an achene (dry, indehiscent, and usually one-seeded)
    Berry color
    NA
    Capsule color (Viola)
    NA
    Capsule ribs
    NA
    Capsule splitting
    NA
    Carpel beak length
    0 mm
    Fruit (pyxis) dehiscence
    NA
    Fruit cross-section
    the fruit is roughly triangular in cross-section
    Fruit features (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Fruit length
    1.8–2.5 mm
    Fruit length relative to sepals
    the fruit is shorter than its associated sepals
    Fruit locules
    one
    Fruit shape
    the fruit is ellipsoid (widest in the middle and tapering to each end)
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry but does not split open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is an achene (dry, usually one-seeded, does not separate or split open at maturity)
    Fruit width
    1.2–1.5 mm
    Hair type on fruit
    NA
    Hairs on fruit
    the fruits are not hairy
    Legumes (Fabaceae)
    NA
    Mericarp length
    0 mm
    Mericarp segment shape (Desmodium)
    NA
    Other markings on berry
    NA
    Placenta arrangement
    the plant has basal placentation, where one or a few ovules develop at the base of a simple or compound ovary
    Rows of seeds in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit compression
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit segments
    0
    Seed number
    1
    Septum in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    the fruit does not have wings on it
    prickles on fruits
    the fruits do not have thorn-like defensive structures
  • Glands or sap
    Glands on leaf blade
    the leaf blades do not have glandular dots or scales
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
    Sap color
    the sap is clear
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is an herb (it has self-supporting stems)
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Parasitism
    the plant is not parasitic
    Plant color
    the leaves or young stems of the plant are green
    Plants darken when dry
    no
    Spines on plant
    the plant has no spines
    Underground organs
    • the plant has a caudex (the root mass is firm and hardened at the top)
    • there is a thickened taproot on the plant
  • Leaves
    Bracteole number (Apiaceae)
    0
    Bracts in plantain (Plantago)
    NA
    Final leaf segment length (compound lvs only)
    0 mm
    Final leaf segment length to width ratio (compound lvs only)
    0
    Final leaf segment width (compound lvs only)
    0 mm
    Hairs on underside of leaf
    the underside of the leaf is not hairy, or it has very few hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or it has very few hairs
    Hooked hairs on underside of leaf
    no
    Inflated hairs on leaf
    the leaf blade does not have inflated hairs on it
    Leaf arrangement
    alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Leaf blade base
    • the leaf has a distinct leaf stalk (petiole)
    • the leaf has no stalk
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is sagittate (arrow-shaped, with pointed lobes directed backwards)
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is symmetrical
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf has no noticeable bloom
    Leaf blade edges
    the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    Leaf blade flatness
    the leaf is flat (planar) at the edges
    Leaf blade hairs
    NA
    Leaf blade length
    40–150 mm
    Leaf blade primary vein pattern
    the secondary veins branch off at intervals from the primary vein
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is oblong (rectangular but with rounded ends)
    • the leaf blade is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade vein pattern
    the major veins of the leaf blade branch, but do not rejoin
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base towards the tip (it may or may not have secondary veins)
    Leaf blade width
    10–60 mm
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they whither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the leaves are green, with an expanded blade and a leaf-like texture
    Leaf hair orientation
    NA
    Leaf shiny
    the upper side of the leaf is dull or slightly shiny
    Leaf spines
    there are no spines on the leaf edges
    Leaf stalk
    • the leaves have leaf stalks
    • the leaves have no leaf stalks, but attach directly to the stem
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    • NA
    • the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf teeth and lobes
    the leaf has a row of two or more lobes on each side of the central axis
    Leaf tip
    the tip of the leaf blade is acute (sharply pointed)
    Leaf type
    the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaf types
    There is a gradual change in appearance of the leaves from the base (or near the base) of the plant to those from further up on the stem, with leaves progressively changing as one moves higher on the stem (often becoming shorter, or less toothed/lobed, and/or with shorter petioles).
    Leaf variation
    the lower leaves are larger, toothier, and/or on longer stalks than the upper leaves
    Leaflet number
    0
    Leaflet petiolules
    NA
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Pinnately compound leaf type
    NA
    Specific leaf type
    the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Stipels
    NA
    Stipule edges
    the stipule margins have teeth on them
    Stipule features
    • glabrous on the surface
    • the stipules do not have tiny hairs (cilia) at their tips
    Stipule shape
    the stipules are tubular (cylindrical and hollow)
    Stipules
    the plant has stipules
    Teeth per side of leaf blade
    0
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of a smell
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Branched tendrils
    NA
    Direction of stem hairs
    NA
    Flowering stem cross-section
    the flowering stem is circular, or with lots of small angles so that it is roughly circular
    Hair between stem nodes
    the stem has no hairs between the nodes
    Hairs between stem nodes
    the stem has no hairs between the nodes
    Hooked hairs on stem between nodes
    no
    Leaves on stem
    there is at least one full leaf above the base of the flowering stem
    Length of hairs between stem nodes
    0 mm
    Plant height
    25–110 cm
    Stem bloom
    there is no powdery or waxy film on the stem
    Stem hair distribution
    NA
    Stem nodes swollen
    the stem is swollen at the nodes
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright or angled outwards
    Stem roughness between nodes
    the stem does not feel rough
    Tendril origin
    NA
    Tendrils
    the plant does not have tendrils
    Wings on stem
    the stem does not have wings on it

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. acetosa

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

No

Sometimes Confused With

Rumex acetosella:
basal lobes of leaf blades directed outward and seed-like fruit 0.9-1.5 mm long (vs. R. acetosa, with basal lobes of leaf blades directed straight backward and seed-like fruit 2-2.5 mm long).

Synonyms

  • Acetosa pratensis P. Mill.
  • Rumex acetosa ssp. pratensis (P. Mill.) Blytt & Dahl

Family

Polygonaceae

Genus

Rumex

Need Help?

Get Help

Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Rumex acetosa L. E

common dock. Acetosa pratensis P. Mill.; Rumex acetosa L. ssp. pratensis (P. Mill.) Blytt & Dahl • CT, MA, ME, NH, VT. Fields, roadsides. The report of Rumex arifolius All. (as R. montanus Desf.) in VT by Dole (1937) was based on a specimen of R. acetosa.