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Curly Dock

Curly Dock maturePlant Description: Curly dock is a herbaceous perennial with tall, erect stems. It reproduces by seeds and a thick fleshy taproot. It is a variable species that hybridizes with other dock species. Curly Dock seedlingA stout, somewhat branched, yellow taproot may extend as deep as 4 feet, with side branches up to 3 feet long. Stems are erect and tall (1 to 4 feet), arising solitary or in small groups from the root crown. Stems are smooth and sometimes ridged. A papery sheath surrounds the stem at each node. Stems turn red-brown at maturity and often persist into winter. Leaves of curly dock are long and relatively narrow, with curly or wavy margins resembling crisped bacon. Curly dock leaves sometimes have a bluish green color. Flowers are not showy, but are small green three-winged sepals that become brown at maturity.

Curly Dock flower stalkCurly dock is a cross-pollinated species that exhibits great variation in morphology and physiological characteristics. Seeds are released from dormancy at various times of the year, and germinate in response to light and fluctuating temperature. Seedlings that emerge early in the growing season produce flowers and seeds in the first year. Seedlings that emerge in autumn form an overwintering rosette and flower the following year. After about 40 days of growth, a seedling can produce shoots from the root crown. Curly Dock matureIn springtime, shoots regenerate from buds at the upper 2 inches of the taproot. Flowers appear in May, about 9 weeks after shoot emergence, and can continue into October and November. Some plants flower twice a year. A single plant can produce 60,000 seeds, some of which germinate readily, while others can remain viable in the soil for over 80 years. Some plants flower and die in one seasons whereas others live 3 to 5 years. Curly dock establishes from seeds only at open, disturbed sites; it does not tolerate competition or tillage.