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Monk's Rhubarb

Rumex alpinus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Polygonaceae (Dock)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, meadows, mountains, roadsides, rocky places, wasteland, waterside.

Green, no petals
The flowers appear in many branched terminal clusters. Flowers are small, green and with rounded tepals. 6 stamens. Wind pollinated.
The fruit is a brown, 3-angled achene, up to 3mm long. The seeds ripen in July and August.
A perennial flower with broad, heart-shaped leaves. Long-stalked. The stem is erect.
Other Names:
Alpine Dock, Mountain Rhubarb, Munk's Rhubarb.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Rumex alpinus, commonly known as alpine dock, is a perennial plant that is native to the mountains of Europe and Asia. It is a part of the buckwheat family (Polygonaceae) and typically grows in alpine and subalpine meadows, rocky slopes, and crevices. The plant has basal rosettes of leaves that are oblong-lanceolate and glossy green in color. It produces spikes of small greenish-brown flowers in summer. It is a low-growing plant that typically reaches about 6 to 8 inches in height. It is tolerant to cold, drought and poor soil, making it a good choice for rock gardens, alpine gardens and other low-maintenance landscapes. It is hardy in USDA zones 3-8.


Monk's Rhubarb, also known as Alpine Dock or Rumex alpinus, is a perennial plant native to the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. It belongs to the family Polygonaceae and is closely related to rhubarb and sorrel.

Monk's Rhubarb has a long history of use in traditional medicine, and its leaves, roots, and seeds have been used for various ailments. In medieval times, it was believed to have mystical properties, and monks used it in their medicines and tonics.

The plant has large, broad leaves that can grow up to 60 cm long and 30 cm wide. The leaves are dark green with a slightly wavy edge and a velvety texture. The stems are thick and fleshy, and can grow up to 1.5 meters in height.

The plant is well adapted to growing in harsh mountain conditions and is often found in rocky, alpine environments. It is tolerant of cold temperatures and can survive in temperatures as low as -20°C. The plant is also tolerant of drought and can grow in soils with low fertility.

Monk's Rhubarb is valued for its medicinal properties, and its leaves and roots have been used to treat a variety of conditions, including diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, and liver problems. The plant contains compounds such as anthraquinones, tannins, and flavonoids, which are believed to have a positive effect on the digestive system.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Monk's Rhubarb has also been used as a food source. The leaves are edible, and their tart, sour taste makes them a popular ingredient in salads, soups, and stews. The leaves can also be boiled and mashed to make a spinach-like dish, or used as a substitute for rhubarb in pies and desserts.

Monk's Rhubarb is also used in the production of traditional alcoholic beverages. The leaves and stems are fermented to produce a drink called "dock wine," which is similar in taste to vermouth. The plant is also used to make a variety of liqueurs, including "rhubarb bitters," which are used in cocktails and other drinks.

Monk's Rhubarb is a versatile and valuable plant with a long history of use in traditional medicine and as a food source. Its medicinal properties and culinary uses make it a popular and important plant in many cultures. While it may not be as well-known as other herbs and plants, it is a fascinating and valuable part of the natural world.

Monk's Rhubarb has also been used in traditional veterinary medicine, as it was believed to have a positive effect on the digestive health of livestock. It was often fed to cows, horses, and sheep to treat diarrhea and other digestive issues.

In addition to its medicinal and culinary uses, Monk's Rhubarb has also been used in traditional dyeing. The roots of the plant contain a red pigment, which can be extracted and used to dye wool and other fabrics.

Monk's Rhubarb is a hardy and resilient plant, and it has the potential to be used in sustainable agriculture and land management practices. The plant's deep roots help to improve soil structure and can be used to stabilize slopes and prevent soil erosion. Its tolerance to drought and cold temperatures also make it a valuable plant for growing in marginal lands, where other crops may struggle to survive.

However, it's important to note that like many medicinal plants, Monk's Rhubarb can be toxic if not used properly. The plant contains high levels of oxalic acid, which can cause kidney damage and other health issues if consumed in large quantities. It's important to only use the plant in small amounts and under the guidance of a qualified healthcare provider.

Monk's Rhubarb is a fascinating and valuable plant with a long and diverse history of use in traditional medicine, food, and culture. While it may not be as well-known as other plants, its many uses and potential for sustainable agriculture make it an important and worthy subject of study and appreciation.

Monk's Rhubarb also has a rich cultural significance in some regions where it grows. In Europe, the plant has been used in various folklore and legends, and is often associated with magic and mystical properties. In some cultures, the plant was believed to ward off evil spirits and protect against witchcraft.

In addition, the plant has been used in traditional ceremonies and rituals. For example, in some areas of the Swiss Alps, it was customary to place a sprig of Monk's Rhubarb in the doorway of the home to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.

Today, Monk's Rhubarb continues to be studied for its potential medicinal and agricultural uses. Some research has shown that the plant may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and may have potential in the treatment of certain diseases, such as cancer and diabetes.

In terms of agriculture, the plant's tolerance to cold temperatures and low-fertility soils make it a promising crop for regions that are prone to drought and extreme weather conditions. Its potential use in land management and soil stabilization practices could also have important implications for sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation.

Overall, Monk's Rhubarb is a fascinating and valuable plant with a rich history and many potential uses. While more research is needed to fully understand its medicinal and agricultural properties, its diverse cultural significance and hardy nature make it an important subject of study and appreciation.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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