1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dock (plant)

DOCK, in botany, the name applied to the plants constituting the section Lapathum of the genus Rumex, natural order Polygonaceae. They are biennial or perennial herbs with a stout root-stock, and glabrous linear-lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate leaves with a rounded, obtuse or hollowed base and a more or less wavy or crisped margin. The flowers are arranged in more or less crowded whorls, the whole forming a denser or looser panicle; they are generally perfect, with six sepals, six stamens and a three-sided ovary bearing three styles with much-divided stigmas. The fruit is a triangular nut enveloped in the three enlarged leathery inner sepals, one or all of which bear a tubercle. In the common or broad-leaved dock, Rumex obtusifolius, the flower-stem is erect, branching, and 18 in. to 3 ft. high, with large radical leaves, heart-shaped at the base, and more or less blunt; the other leaves are more pointed, and have shorter stalks. The whorls are many-flowered, close to the stem and mostly leafless. The root is many-headed, black externally and yellow within. The flowers appear from June to August. In autumn the whole plant may become of a bright red colour. It is a troublesome weed, common by roadsides and in fields, pastures and waste places throughout Europe. The great water dock, R. hydrolapathum, believed to be the herba britannica of Pliny (Nat. Hist. xxv. 6), is a tall-growing species; its root is used as an antiscorbutic. Other British species are R. crispus; R. conglomeratus, the root of which has been employed in dyeing; R. sanguineus (bloody dock, or bloodwort); R. palustris; R. pulcher (fiddle dock), with fiddle-shaped leaves; R. maritimus; R. aquaticus; R. pratensis. The naturalized species, R. alpinus, or “monk’s rhubarb,” was early cultivated in Great Britain, and was accounted an excellent remedy for ague, but, like many other such drugs, is now discarded.