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Argentine Dock

Rumex frutescens

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Polygonaceae (Dock)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Grassland, riversides, sand dunes, seaside, waterside, woodland.

Green, no petals
Flowers appear in terminal spikes and have oblong sepals.
Flat, roundish fruits. Fruits each have 3 oblong warts and are toothed.
A stout species of dock with oval to lance-shaped, leathery leaves. Leaf margins are crinkly. Perennial.
Other Names:
Southern Dock, Wild Rhubarb.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Rumex frutescens, also known as the southern dock or wild rhubarb, is a plant species in the buckwheat family (Polygonaceae). It is native to North and South America and is found in a variety of habitats including open woodlands, grasslands, and along streams and rivers. The plant has large, oblong leaves and small green flowers that grow in clusters. The roots, leaves, and stems of R. frutescens are used medicinally by some indigenous people to treat a variety of ailments. The plant is also sometimes used as a food source, although it is not as well known or widely cultivated as some other species in the Rumex genus.


Argentine Dock, also known as Rumex frutescens, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the Polygonaceae family. This plant is native to South America and is widely distributed in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay. It is a perennial herb that grows up to 1 meter tall and produces clusters of small, yellow flowers from spring to summer.

The leaves of Argentine Dock are lance-shaped and grow up to 30 cm long. They are usually dark green on the upper side and lighter green on the bottom. The plant is well-adapted to survive in a variety of conditions, including drought and salinity. This makes it an excellent choice for planting in areas with challenging growing conditions.

In addition to its ornamental value, Argentine Dock has a range of practical uses. In South America, it has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant to treat various ailments, including digestive problems and skin irritations. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can help to soothe irritated skin and promote healing.

Argentine Dock is also considered a valuable food source for livestock, as it contains high levels of protein and minerals. In some areas, it is used as a forage plant for cattle and sheep. The plant's leaves and stems are palatable and nutritious, and it can provide an important source of food for livestock during times of drought or other harsh weather conditions.

In horticulture, Argentine Dock is valued for its drought tolerance and ability to thrive in areas with poor soil. It is often used in landscaping and erosion control projects, as it has a strong root system that helps to prevent soil erosion. Additionally, its tolerance of salt spray and salt soil makes it an excellent choice for planting near coastlines and in other salty environments.

Overall, Argentine Dock is a versatile and valuable plant that is well-suited to a range of conditions and applications. Whether you are looking for an attractive ornamental plant for your garden, a food source for livestock, or a solution for erosion control, Argentine Dock is definitely worth considering.

Another important aspect of Argentine Dock is its tolerance of heavy metals in soil. This makes it a useful plant for phytoremediation, which is the process of using plants to clean up contaminated soil. Argentine Dock is able to absorb heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, from the soil and store them in its tissues. This can help to reduce the levels of these harmful substances in the soil and improve its quality.

In recent years, Argentine Dock has been the subject of scientific research due to its potential as a biofuel crop. The plant is capable of producing high yields of biomass and can be grown on marginal lands that are not suitable for food crops. This makes it an attractive option for sustainable biofuel production and a potential solution to the problems associated with the use of food crops for biofuel production.

Argentine Dock is also a popular ornamental plant due to its attractive foliage and yellow flowers. It is commonly used in wildflower gardens, rock gardens, and other landscaping applications. The plant is easy to grow and care for, making it a great choice for both experienced gardeners and those new to gardening.

Argentine Dock is a versatile plant with a range of benefits for both the environment and human use. Its ability to tolerate harsh growing conditions, its value as a food source for livestock, and its potential for phytoremediation and biofuel production make it an important species to consider for various applications. Its ornamental value also adds to its appeal, making it a great choice for gardeners looking for an attractive and low-maintenance plant.

Another interesting aspect of Argentine Dock is its traditional use in South American indigenous cultures. The plant has been used for centuries by indigenous communities for various purposes, including medicinal, food, and cultural rituals. In some indigenous communities, Argentine Dock is believed to have spiritual properties and is used in traditional ceremonies to bring good luck and health.

In addition to its traditional uses, Argentine Dock has also been studied for its potential as a source of natural dyes. The plant contains high levels of anthocyanins, which are pigments that give the plant its yellow color. These pigments have potential uses in the food and textile industries as natural dyes, providing a sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative to synthetic dyes.

Despite its many benefits, Argentine Dock is not well-known in many parts of the world, and more research is needed to fully understand its potential. However, its wide range of uses and adaptability to different growing conditions make it a promising species for future cultivation and development.

In conclusion, Argentine Dock is a fascinating plant with a rich history and a range of practical and cultural uses. Its ability to thrive in challenging growing conditions, its potential for phytoremediation and biofuel production, and its value as a natural dye source and food source for livestock are just a few of the many benefits this species has to offer. Whether you are a gardener, scientist, or indigenous community member, Argentine Dock is a plant worth considering for its many benefits and its unique place in the world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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