Know your weeds: Curly Dock
Dr. Mario A. Villarino
During my latest visit to the east side of Hopkins County I came across into a tenacious weed known as Curly dock. Curly dock is a perennial that often persists in turf areas. It has a large, thick taproot that penetrates deep into the soil. Because of this root, curly dock grows most actively when grass is suffering from stress of hot, dry weather. Long, narrow leaves have "curly" or"wavy" edges and form a strong, tough rosette. These leaves are a bright, shiny green in the spring, but as summer and fall approach they become tinged with a reddish-purple. Curly dock seldom produces seed in maintained turf. In waste areas where the plant can grow unchecked, small greenish flowers are produced in clusters at the top of the main stem. These flowers later turn to flattened brown seedpods. Curly dock is a cross-pollinated species that exhibits great variation in morphology and physiological characteristics. Seeds are released from dormancy at various times of the year, and germinate in response to light and fluctuating temperature. Seedlings that emerge early in the growing season produce flowers and seeds in the first year. Seedlings that emerge in autumn form an overwintering rosette and flower the following year. After about 40 days of growth, a seedling can produce shoots from the root crown. In springtime, shoots regenerate from buds at the upper 2 inches of the taproot. Flowers appear in May, about 9 weeks after shoot emergence, and can continue into October and November.
Some plants flower twice a year. A single plant can produce 60,000 seeds, some of which germinate readily, while others can remain viable in the soil for over 80 years. Some plants flower and die in one seasons whereas others live 3 to 5 years. Curly dock establishes from seeds only at open, disturbed sites; it does not tolerate competition or tillage. Curly Dock can be controlling by using a combination herbicides containing mecoprop, dicamba and 2,4-D are effective in the control of Curly dock. Ingestion of foliage or seeds of curly dock has been responsible for several gastric disturbances and dermatitis in cattle and serious toxicity in poultry. Leaves contain soluble oxalates that can be toxic if consumed in large quantities or if not cooked properly (from Ohio State University, Ohio perennial and biennial weed guide). For more information on weed control or other agricultural topics please contact the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.