Known as Dockens in Scotland, Docks are part of the larger family of Polygonaceae (Docks and Knotgrasses). They are hard to distinguish from each other as they all have spikes of small greenish or brownish flowers. Species are more easily distinguished by differences in leaf shape or size. Curled Dock is found in waste sites, cultivated ground, pasture and marshy ground throughout Scotland, including the Isles. It is most often found near to the coast, and more rarely seen in some parts of Central Scotland and the Northwest Highlands. It is known worldwide and has names in many languages, including, in Japanese: nagabagishigishi.
Curled Dock is a perennial with often reddish vertically branching stems, which stand upright throughout the winter. The leaves are lanceolate and pointed with wavy edges. They grow up to 25cm long, on long stalks at the base of the plant, and shorter stalks further up. At the base the leaves form a loose circular pattern almost like a rosette, then grow alternately up the stem. The branched flowering spikes are leafy with tiny flowers (3mm across) made of green perianth segments arranged in a 3-lobed pattern, and with 6 creamy stamens inside.
The fruit is a 3-sided glossy reddish brown achene. The fruits dangle from the stem in many clusters turning the plant pinkish-red through to brown as they ripen.