Broadleaf dock (Rumex obtusifolius) is a very hardy and common perennial weed with leaves that grow in a rosette or overlapping and circular pattern at the base. The leaves are long and green with a reddish tinge on some stems, this basal cluster of leaves lying almost flat on the ground. Shaped in a rough oval each leaf at the base can reach up to 16 inches in length and has a slightly wavy texture around its edge. Flower stems extend straight up from this base, each stem ranging between two to five feet in height. Smaller leaves ins a similar egg shape grow up the ridged flower stems alternating sides.
Flowers develop as racemes on the upper third of the upright stems, many-blossomed clusters that are arranged with short spaces between individual blooms. The flowers are green and inconspicuous at first, maturing to a reddish-brown hue as fruiting occurs. The fruits surround the teardrop-shaped seeds with rough edges that can catch on animal hair or clothing and so be spread far from the plant. Wind also disperses the seeds, made easier by wing-like sepals on the fruits. One mature plant can contain 60,000 seeds.
Because of a taproot that can reach up to five feet in depth this weed can be tough to eradicate. Although it propagates primarily by seed, it can also regenerate from bits of taproot in the soil. Broadleaf dock is now found worldwide but originated in Europe, favoring damp and wet areas. A comprehensive year-round weed control program provided by a licensed lawn care service is often needed to control bad outbreaks.
The young leaves are sometimes used in salads, bitter but pleasing as part of a mix, with a slightly laxative effect. A poultice of crushed leaves is a suggested natural remedy for stings, including the injury done by stinging nettles. Sometimes known as butter dock, the plant got this name because leaves were once used to wrap slabs of churned butter to preserve and protect them.