Rumex crispus

Curly Dock

Botanical description: Rumex crispus is most notable for its rich reddish-brown seed heads that share a post-industrial aesthetic with the rusty steel remnants of its decaying urban surroundings. Curly dock is another Eurasian plant that has naturalized across North America, since first observations of it in New England in the late 17th century. Relatively non-selective about habitat, curly dock can be found in sunny areas that are prone to temporary flooding, as well as dry, gravelly sites, vacant lots, gardens and road edges. The plant produces a large rosette of foot-long foliage, with curly margins and a prominent midrib. Flower stalks can reach a height of five feet, but are more often two to three feet tall. Dense whorls of apetalous, green flowers appear along the stem in early spring, soon followed by tight clusters of seed. The prolific seed can remain viable for fifty years and is very distinctive in shape with each fat, oval seed being surrounded by a papery husk that enables a variety of distribution types. Rumex crispus can also reproduce when pieces of its stout taproot are detached, which allows the plant to thrive in disturbed sites. Curly dock has proven to be capable of accumulating heavy metals like cadmium and zinc from contaminated soils.