Fiddle Dock

Rumex pulcher L.

Family: - Polygonaceae.


Rumex is derived from the Latin name for Sorrel.

Pulcher is Latin for beautiful and refers to the elegantly waisted leaves of the basal rosette.

Fiddle Dock refers to the fiddle or violin shape of some of the basal leaves. Dock is from the Old English docce meaning a coarse weedy herb.

Other names:

Fiddleneck Dock (USA)

Red dock.


Fiddle Dock is a rosette forming plant with rounded oblong leaves, the basal ones are 40-150 mm long and often slightly constricted in the middle to appear fiddle-shaped. The basal leaves have long petioles and the stem leaves are smaller. The erect stems which grow to about 500 mm tall have almost horizontal and wiry branches carrying many rings of toothed, 3 sided fruit. Each flower has small floral segments, 6 stamens and 3 styles. The fruit valves are brown, swollen and warty in the centre and the margin has prominent stiff teeth.

The stems turn red brown on senescence and persist over summer. It has a perennial, over summering, carrot like rootstock with annual top growth. It flowers from September to December.

Each year new leaves arise from the perennial rootstock. It is native to the Mediterranean region and south-west Asia and has become a common weed of creeklines, pastures, crops and waste land. It flowers in spring and early summer.

Each year new leaves arise from the perennial rootstock.

Native to Europe and south-west Asia, it has become a weed of creeklines, pasture and disturbed woodland.

It flowers in winter, spring and early summer.



Two. Long and slender, round tipped, blade 8-12 mm long by 1.5-3 mm wide, stalk 8-12 mm long. Hairless. The seedling has a short hypocotyl and no epicotyl.

First Leaves:

Develop singly, oval to round, 10 mm long with 10 mm long stalk with a membranous sheath. Hairless. Later leaves are longer and constricted in the middle.


Form a basal rosette with alternate stem leaves.

Stipules - Membranous sheath(ochrea), 8 mm long, at the base of the leaf stalk.

Petiole - 10-60 mm long in basal leaves, less than 5 mm long to none on stem leaves.

Blade - Oblong to lance shaped, dark green and often constricted in the middle to be fiddle shaped (rarely there are two constrictions), slightly fleshy, 40-200 mm long by 10-50 mm wide. Hairless or with scattered hairs on top and more densely hairy below. Edges sometimes crisped(in hybrids). Tip rounded. Base of leaf indented.

Stem leaves - Few, lance shaped. Narrower and smaller than rosette leaves with a more pointed tip. Membranous sheath at base. Lower leaves to 50 mm with short stalk, upper ones smaller with no stalk. Hairless. Not constricted.


Erect, pithy or hollow, fluted, stiff, slender, 200-1000 mm tall. Hairless. Branched from base and much branched along their length. Branches usually at right angles to the stem and almost horizontal. Looks tangled.

Flower head:

In ring like clusters of 6-12 flowers with a small leaf underneath that are well separated on the stems in a sparsely branched panicle that are leafy near the base and leafless at the top.


Reddish green. 1-2 mm. On short, 2-4 mm long, stalks.

Bracts - Ochreola, 1.5-2 mm long, brown fringed, translucent

Ovary - 3 styles with large, tufted stigmas.

Calyx -

Perianth - 6 segments, 3 inner ones enlarged and close over the fruit.

Stamens - 6,

Anthers -


Nut enclosed by 3 inner perianth segments or valves. Valves are egg shaped to triangular or circular, leathery, network patterned, 4-6 mm long by 2.5-4.5 mm wide, rounded tip, 3-6 and sometimes more rigid teeth on the edges. All 3 valves with an oblong wart(tubercle) with one tubercle sometimes much larger than the other two. Fruit on a 2-4 mm slender, curved stalk that holds it away from the stem. Red brown becoming grey with age. Fruit remains on the stem and the stem remain standing for many months.


Triangular pyramid nut, glossy, pale to dark brown, 1.5-4 mm long by 1 mm wide, widest below the middle.


Multiple taproots like small dark brown carrots. Up to 200 mm long and 20 mm wide. Short, thick underground stem or crown is on top of the taproots.

Key Characters:


Leaves not hastate, base cordate, tapering or truncate, not lobed

Fruiting perianth inconspicuous.

Perianth lobes 6, the inner 3 larger than the outer.

Flowers bisexual, rarely polygamous.

Flower clusters, several flowered, distant, without floral leaves except to the lowest ones.

Fruiting valves, tuberculate with several, short, irregular, straight marginal teeth, apex of valve broadly acuminate or acute.

Fruiting pedicels 2-4 mm long.

From J.M. Black and G. Perry.


Life cycle:

Perennial up to 1m tall. Seed germinates from autumn to spring and forms a strong taproot and rosette of leaves over winter and spring and may send up a flowering stem in spring. Many seedlings don't flower in their first year and top growth dies off with the drought and high temperatures of summer leaving the perennial rootstock in the soil. Shoots form on the rootstock as temperatures fall in autumn and this may precede the first rains. Rosettes quickly develop and shade or crowd neighbouring species. A flowering stem emerges in spring emerges in spring and fruit ripens in early summer. Top growth dies of over summer but some rosette leaves may survive summer in moist or irrigated conditions.



By seed and perennial rootstock.

Flowering times:

September to December in WA.

October to December in SA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Exposure to light, alternating temperatures, stratification(chilling of moist seed) and nitrate increases germination.

Some seed is dormant.

Some seed may last in the soil for at least 15 years.

Vegetative Propagules:

Perennial rootstock.


Rumex pulcher ssp. pulcher

Rumex pulcher ssp. divaricatus does not have a constriction in the centre of the basal leaves and the fruiting valves with several short teeth along the edges and without a ligulate apex.

Hybrids between Rumex pulcher and Rumex crispus are common where the two species grow in close proximity.


Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

The pithy wart on the fruit assist flotation for dispersal by water.

The teeth on the fruit entangles in wool, fur and fibrous material the assist spread by animals and man.

Seed consumed by animals is passed in a viable condition.

Rootstocks readily re shoot after being broken by and/or moved by cultivation.

It is also spread as a contaminant of grain and hay.

Autumn germinating seedling usually have a higher survival rate than spring germinating seedlings. Seedlings may produce rootstocks capable of withstanding summer drought in 30-50 days. Seedlings are very sensitive to competition and usually only survive in relatively bare areas. However, once established they are very competitive. They often rapidly colonise areas that have been denuded.

Origin and History:

Europe. Asia.



In all parts of Tasmania.

In WA, Fiddle Dock (Rumex pulcher) tends to grow in grazed pasture situations and Curled Dock (Rumex crispus) on roadsides, depressions or winter waterlogged areas.

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium


It is not restricted to damp situations.


Temperate. Mediterranean. Warm temperate areas.

Most abundant in the higher rainfall areas.


More abundant on shallow, winter waterlogged, duplex, sandy soils.

Plant Associations:



Early and late season fodder.


Weed of crops, pastures, vegetables, vineyards, orchards, wet areas, streams, roadsides and disturbed areas.

It can be very competitive and almost take over some pastures.

Chokes cereal harvesters.

Contaminates grain but generally causes little yield loss in crops.


May contain potentially toxic amounts of oxalate that could lead to oxalate poisoning but it is rarely a problem in the field.


Noxious weed of WA.

Management and Control:

Seedlings less than 6 weeks old can usually be controlled by cultivation. Repeated cultivation over summer are required to control rootstocks.

Mowing and slashing are ineffective.

Some selective control in legume based pastures can be achieved by using glyphosate in a blanket wiper in late spring.


Pasture production starts to drop rapidly once it reaches 30% of the sward.

Eradication strategies:

Remove isolated plants by cutting their roots at least 200 mm below ground level.

Apply 800 mL/ha glyphosate(450g/L) plus 40 g/ha Logran plus 5 g/ha Ally plus 1 L of Pulse Penetrant per 400 L of spray mix, 2-3 weeks after the break. Cultivate 5 days later and plant wheat.

OR Apply 1000 mL/ha glyphosate(450g/L) plus 500 mL/ha Dicamba(200g/L) plus 1 L of Pulse Penetrant per 400 L of spray mix, 2-3 weeks after the break and cultivate 5 days later and plant oats or barley.

6-8 weeks after planting apply 5 g/ha of Ally in wheat and barley crops or 750 mL/ha of dicamba amine in oat crops.

In following break crops use triazine or urea herbicides to reduce the establishment of Dock for dormant seed.

In following clover pastures, Spray Graze with 750 mL/ha of 2,4-D amine(500g/L) 6-8 weeks after the break of the season to prevent seedlings establishing. Repeat this annually for at least 5 years.

In bushland, individual plants may be wiped with a mixture of 1 L glyphosate(450g/L) in 2 L water. Small infestations may be sprayed with 0.5g chlorsulfuron(600g/kg) plus 100 mL Tordon 75-D in 10 L of water in winter. This mix controls existing plants and has residual activity to control seedlings about a year. Some seed will remain viable in the soil for 20 years. Plant tall growing perennial species to increase the levels of shade and help reduce re invasion.

Blanket wiping with 1 L glyphosate(450g/L) plus 20 g chlorsulfuron(750g/kg) plus 2 L water in spring is reasonably selective in pastures. This mix may be applied manually to individual plants.

On small infestations 0.5 g chlorsulfuron(750g/kg) plus 100 mL Tordon®75-D in 10 L of water in winter will control existing plants and seedlings for about a year. Some seed remains viable for 20 years.

2 L/ha glyphosate(450g/L) can be used selectively in some seasons when dock is green in autumn or summer and the annuals are not. Metsulfuron is also effective.

Grazing, mowing and cultivation usually lead to greater stands.

Plant tall growing perennial species to increase the levels of shade and help reduce re-invasion.

Herbicide resistance:

Biological Control:

Several biocontrol agents have been released.

Related plants:

Bladder Dock (Rumex vesicarius)

Broadleaf Dock (Rumex obtusifolius)

Clustered Dock (Rumex conglomeratus)

Curled Dock (Rumex crispus) is a tall plant up to 1.5 m tall with pointed oval leaves that are 4-24 cm long. The leafless inflorescence has densely clustered flowers and fruits. The fruit valves are reddish brown, swollen in the centre, with smooth margins and lacking teeth.

Mud Dock (Rumex bidens)

Rambling Dock (Rumex sagittatus)

Shiny Dock (Rumex crystallinus)

Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Swamp Dock (Rumex brownii)

Wiry Dock (Rumex dumosus)

Plants of similar appearance:

Spiny Emex (Emex australis) looks similar especially when young.


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