This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Though not so distinctly a marsh plant as the Golden Dock, this species is found in Interglacial beds in Sussex and near London, in Late Glacial beds in the Isle of Man, and Neolithic beds in Edinburgh. It is distributed to-day in the North Temperate Zones in Europe, N. Africa, N. and W. Asia, N.-W. India, and has been introduced recently in North America. This plant occurs in all parts of Great Britain, N.-W. Shetland, up to 1000 ft. in N. England, Ireland, and the Channel Islands.
Dairy Maid's Dock is a very common species, equally varied in its habitat. For while it is a typical follower of man, and found on all waste ground, it occurs in fields and meadows not only around haystacks and barns, etc, but in damp ditches and hollows, as well as by the wayside, where it is quite plentiful in shaded spots. It is also a regular component of aquatic formations, growing by streams, rivers, ponds, and in marshes.
It is long-rooted, with a tall, erect, branched stem, furrowed, smooth, solid, jointed. The radical leaves are oblong, heart-shaped, egg-shaped, stalked, veined, the upper ones oblong-lance-shaped, those in the middle reddish, the leaf-stalks nearly round, below hollow, flat, slender.
The flowers are greenish, the parts in threes, with 3 oval, entire petals, membranous at the margin, in a narrow panicle. The calyx is hollow, with 3 lance-shaped segments, membranous, the sepals netlike, containing the fruit. The fruits are 3-sided and brown, with oval valves.
This plant is 2-3 ft. high. Dairy Maid's Dock flowers in June up till August. It is perennial, and increases by means of the root. The flowers are anemophilous, or pollinated by the wind, and bisexual. They are visited by Halictus cylindricus. The stigmas are large, tasselled. The stigmas ripen first. There is honey in the flower.
The fruit or seeds are winged, and when they fall they are carried to a distance by the wind.
Two microfungi, Uromyces rumicis and Puccinia phragmitis, attack the leaves, also a mould, Peronospora effusa. It is galled by Diplosis rumicis. Three beetles, Gastriodes viridula, G. polygoni, Mantura rustica; two Hymenoptera, Prosopis cornuta and P. dilatata; and several Lepidoptera, Large Red-belted Clearwing (Sesia chrysidi-formis), Chrysophanus chryseis, Clouded-bordered Brindle (Xylophasia rurea), Bird's-wing (Dipterygia pinastri), The Uncertain (Caradrina alsines), Pearly Underwing (Agrotis saucia), Stout Dart (A. ravida), Wood Swift (Hepialus sylvinus), Bloodvein (Timandra amataria), Purple - barred Yellow (Lythria purpuraria), etc, are found upon it.
The second Latin name refers to the shape (obtuse) of the leaves. It is called Batter Dock, Butter Dock, Celery-seed, Cushy - cows, Docken,
Kettle Dock, Red Shank, Smair Dock. As to the name Docken: "When a boy gets stung by a nettle he searches for a dock-leaf, and rubs it on the wounded part, repeating the charm, Docken dock-an in, nettle nettle out". This is the explanation of Cushy-cows or Curly Cows: "Children call the seeded plant Cushy Cows, and they milk it by drawing the stalk through the fingers".
In Wilts, when exorcising the nettle sting with a dock leaf, children repeat:"Out ettle In dock,
Dock shall ha a new smock; Ettle zhout Ha nannu".
An old remedy for boils was Dock tea. This plant is laxative. The roots powdered are used for cleaning the teeth. The leaves have been used for wrapping round butter and cream cheese.
Photo J H. Crabtree - Dairy Maid's Dock (Rumex Obtusifolius, L.)
Photo. H. Irving. - Wall Barley (Hordeum Murinum, L.)
Essential Specific Characters:270. Rumex obtusifolius, L.-Stem tall, rigid, leaves ovate, cordate, below obtuse, upper lanceolate, flowers in distant whorls, petals enlarged, upper sepal tubercled.