Herbs with simple leaves and scarious, sheathing stipules (ochreae). Flowers usually bisexual. Sepals 3-6, petaloid or green, often in 2 rows. Stamens 5-8. Ovary usually trigonous. Styles 1-3. Ovule solitary. Fruit hard, indehiscent, enclosed in the persistent perianth.

A considerable family, dispersed over the whole globe.

Rumex L. Dock

Flowers unisexual or bisexual, in racemes or panicled whorls.

Sepals 6, in two rows, the inner ones enlarged in fruit. Stamens 6.

A rather large genus spread over the greater part of the world.

Rumex Alpinus L. Monk's Rhubarb

This is the Dock so often seen in the neighbourhood of herdsmen's huts in Alpine pastures, sometimes up to nearly 8000 feet. The young stems when stewed afford a not unpleasant dish, resembling Rhubarb. The stems are 1-2 feet high, branched, glabrous like the whole plant. Leaves undulate, crenate, or entire, the lower ones cordate-orbicular or cordate-ovate, obtuse; higher ones ovate or ovate-lanceolate, acute, the uppermost lanceolate. Flowers in pseudo-verticillate, leafless, crowded racemes. The 3 inner valves of fruiting perianth cordate-ovate, reticulately veined, entire or serrate; none of them tubercled. Petioles long, channelled.'

Damp Alpine and sub-alpine pastures, generally near huts. July, August.


Carpathians, Riesengebirge, Eastern, Central, and Western Alps; Jura, Vosges, Black Forest, Auvergne, Pyrenees; Western Asia. Naturalised in N. Britain.

Rumex Scutatus L. (Plate XVI)

A glaucous species 1-2 feet high, with long rampant rootstock, and numerous slender flexuous leafy stems. Leaves hastate or sagittate with large basal lobes, with long petioles longer than the limb. Flowers bisexual, in few-flowered whorls forming lax spiked panicles. Seed-vessel membranous, sub-orbicular, entire.

Old walls and stony places in the Alps, sub-Alps, and plains. May to August.


Central and Southern Europe, Western Asia, N. Africa. Naturalised near Edinburgh.

Rumex Arifolius All

Stem 1-3 feet high, leafy. Leaves thin with spreading auricles, ovate-hastate, entire; root-leaves short and few; stem-leaves larger, embracing the stem. Flowers dioecious, in long panicles.

Alpine meadows, pastures, and open woods. June to September.


Alps, Jura, Vosges, Pyrenees, Corsica, Central and Southern Europe, Caucasus, Siberia.

Rumex Acetosella L. Sheep-Sorrel

A slender plant 3-10 inches high, acid and frequently turning red. Leaves petioled and sagittate, the lobes at the base spreading and sometimes toothed; upper leaves generally linear and nearly sessile. Flowers small, red, dioecious, in slender terminal panicles. Perianth segments small, orbicular, entire and thin, the inner ones closing over the nut.

Dry pastures, walls, and waste places, from the plains to the High Alps; common. May to September.


Temperate regions of the globe, and penetrating far into the Arctic regions. British.

Polygonum L

Herbs with alternate leaves and membranous stipules. Flowers bisexual, in terminal spikes or racemes. Sepals 5, usually petaloid. Stamens 5-8. Styles 2-3.

About 200 species distributed throughout the globe.

Polygonum Viviparum L. (Plate VI)

Stem 4-8 inches high, erect, simple, glabrous like the whole plant. Leaves entire, with recurved margin and crenate from the thickened transverse veins; lower leaves elliptical or lanceolate, contracted into a wingless leaf-stalk; upper ones lanceolate or linear-lanceolate, acute, sessile. Flowers in a linear-cylindrical, crowded, erect spike, the lower part of which is composed of bulbils. Perianth white or light flesh-coloured.

Alpine and sub-alpine pastures, descending to the valleys. June to August.


Alps, Carpathians, Jura, Pyrenees, Europe, Asia, N. America, Arctic regions. British.

Polygonum Bistorta L. Bistort. (Plate VI)

Stem 1-3 feet high. Leaves lanceolate-ovate with cordate base and winged leaf-stalk, upper leaves sessile. Flowers in a short terminal spike, pink.

Damp meadows and pastures in the Alps and plains, frequently giving a pinkish tinge to the colour of the Alpine meadows before the grass is cut, as so cleverly shown in some of Mr. Flemwell's pictures.


Europe, Asia, N. America, and Arctic regions. British.

Polygonum Alpinum All

Stem 1-2 feet high, branched, leafy. Leaves lanceolate, acute, narrowed into a short petiole, wavy or toothed. Flowers in a paniculate raceme, yellowish white or pink; scaly sheaths (ochreae) with rough hairs. Fruit shining, trigonous, equalling the perianth.

Damp meadows in the mountains; local. July, August.


Eastern, Central, and Western Alps; Pyrenees, Central and Northern Asia.

Polygonum Aviculare L. Knotgrass

A much branched and often prostrate, wiry annual, varying much in size and habit from an inch high (var. nana Boiss. which we have seen at 9000 feet) to a foot or two long in arable ground. Stipules white, scarious, ragged at the edges. Leaves small, narrow-oblong, but very variable. Flowers small, reddish, shortly stalked in clusters in the axils of the leaves. Nuts trigonous, minutely granulated or wrinkled.

Waste places, extending nearly all over the globe from the tropics to the Arctic regions.