Broadleaf Dock, also known as Rumex obtusifolius, is a weed that many people struggle to identify and remove.

In this guide, we will go over the different ways Broadleaf Dock can be identified depending on the season and methods for removal.

Quick Facts

Common names: bitter dock, broad-leaved dock, bluntleaf dock, cushy-cows, kettle dock, curled dock, smair dock, dock leaf or butter dock
Scientific name: Rumex obtusifolius or Rumex crispus
Family: Polygonaceae
Origin: Native to Europe
Flowering season: June to October
Habitat: wasteland, woodlands, borders, lawns, hedgerows, gardens, roadside verges and near water
Identification of Broadleaf Dock ahead of weed treatment

Broadleaf Dock Identification

Broadleaf Dock is a perennial weed that can grow up to six feet high. Broadleaf Dock has been described as an invasive species in both the United States and Europe.

Broadleaf Dock begins to grow early in the spring after snowmelt or heavy rain, but it’s not until June when you’ll see its full growth potential.

This weed thrives at this time because there are more moist conditions for them around your garden (or anywhere else). It continues to grow through summer into Autumn.

umex Crispus - Broadleaf Dock - Whole plant, leaves and seedhead
Rumex Crispus – Broadleaf Dock – Whole plant, leaves and seedhead

What does Broadleaf dock look like?

Characteristics that make up the Broadleaf dock leaf, stem, root and flower are detailed below.

Remember that while broadleaf dock doesn’t grow very tall, what matters most isn’t height but coverage on the ground: there are some patches of land that take years to finally be free from its tenacious grip once invaded.

Be persistent because after removing one plant stem at a time it becomes easier to spot and remove new ones as they pop up.

Certain Broadleaf Dock plants will not grow higher than 12 inches tall but most tend to reach up to 16-24” in height; they come from rhizomes so it is possible for this weed species to spread quite rapidly under favourable conditions.

Broadleaf Dock Leaf

Leaves: Broadleaf Dock can be identified by its leaves that are long and narrow, thick at the base with a pointy tip. The leaf margins (edges) have large spiny teeth on them while lobes or serrations are absent. They also have an opposite pattern of ovate to lanceolate shape which is further aided by their wavy edges.

The broad leaves have three distinctive “lobes” on them with serrated edges. It also produces small yellow flowers which produce seeds for future generations and leaves that turn red in autumn or fall before dying off completely by wintertime.

Roots: Keep in mind when pulling out weeds by hand to wear gloves because roots can sometimes travel far underground into hard-to-reach spaces like underneath sidewalks and driveways where they’re difficult to see until too late.

The plants have deep taproots that can reach 1.5 metres in depth. Buds on broken taproot fragments can grow into new plants, spreading infestations.

Rumex obtusifolius, commonly known as bitter dock, broad leaved dock, bluntleaf dock, or butter dock
Rumex obtusifolius, commonly known as bitter dock, broad-leaved dock, blunt leaf dock, or butter dock

Flowers: Their flowers bloom between July and September after being fertilized only once during the year before flowering occurs- meaning there must be a long-term population of this weed to provide enough seedlings.

The flowers are pink or white and grow in clusters on the stem with a height range from 12” up to 24” tall!

Broadleaf Dock seedhead
Broadleaf Dock seedhead

Fruits/Seeds: Seeds have a toothed wing structure which aids dispersal. The seeds germinate whenever conditions are favourable, although the big emerging flushes occur in March-April and July-October.

Seeds germinate best on the surface of the soil or in the top 10 mm of soil. Seedlings appear to emerge from deeper in the earth in the summer when the earth is warmer.

The Problem

Docks have a thick branched root that can regrow if it becomes damaged and can repopulate. It is important not to disturb them or try to pull them out as they can easily snap. Seeds can produce in abundance if left on a surface and the seeds can also be imported via manure.

Broadleaf dock Seasonal Changes

The easiest way to identify Broadleaf Dock is by looking at its leaves because they never change form; however, there are some other ways depending on the season.

Stump-leaved dock blossoms in spring
Stump-leaved dock blossoms in spring

Broadleaf dock in Spring

In springtime, Broadleaf Dock’s leaves are green and pointy without any lobes or serrations; it also has a lot of buds but no flowers yet.

In early June, look for its green shoots cutting through the soil – especially where your lawn meets land that tends to stay wetter such as near water or streams.

This weed thrives during this time because of moist conditions so keep an eye on it if you’re worried about counteracting weeds with fertilizer all year long!

Broadleaf dock in Summer

The summer is when this weed really begins to pop up all over your lawn. If you have a lot of Broadleaf Dock in your garden, it’s time for more serious action!

In the summertime, its leaves have become larger and rounder with yellowish-green veins running through them; they still lack lobes or serrations but now there is some red colouring on the stems as well as orange/red colouration on the underside of their mature leaves.

Rumex Crispus - Broadleaf Dock
Rumex Crispus – Broadleaf Dock

Broadleaf dock in Autumn

In the Autumn, these colours subside to be mostly yellow-brown in colour while losing all traces of redness from previous months (except for some lenticels).

Broadleaf dock in Winter

Finally, by winter Broadleaf Dock lost all trace of life because its stem turns black and will die back.

How to get rid of Broadleaf dock

Method One – Herbicide Treatment

When it comes time for Broadleaf Dock removal, we recommend using glyphosate (applied during the pre-emergent stage) as opposed to other herbicides that may have residual effects so close to your garden plants.

This will not only kill off all remaining plant life but also prevent new Broadleaf Dock growth next year.

Remember that if you’re serious about removing all traces of Broadleaf Docks on your lawn then don’t stop at just one treatment; it’ll take several applications to achieve it.

Be sure you use gloves when handling these products and always read labels before applying anything near food crops or edible gardening areas!

Dock plant Rumex obtusifolius in a grassy field
Dock plant Rumex obtusifolius in a grassy field

Management of Broadleaf Dock

The best way to keep weeds at bay is through proper soil management practices such as mulching and weed control.

You can also use sheet mulch, which provides a barrier between the surface of your garden bed and earthworms that deep down feed on seeds that are in the soil near the surface level!

Weed fabric is another option for preventing the new Broadleaf Dock from coming up all season long. This material will help to keep grass or weeds from growing through it while allowing water and air to reach plants below.

Weed fabric is great because you don’t have to worry about dealing with messy herbicides ever again–just remove old sheets when they wear out, replace them, and watch as more new Broadleaf Docks never make their way into your garden!

In Conclusion

The broadleaf dock is a tough plant but with this guide outlining all areas for attack, we hope you’re ready to fight back against this enemy before they get too far into your garden again!

Broadleaf docks are a very adaptable weed that grows in our gardens today and is one of the most resistant. However, using one of the products mentioned below will eliminate it.

How does Broadleaf Dock spread?

It spreads via the thick taproot that can re-grow and its abundant seeds.

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