Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Rambling Dock (Rumex sagittatus) is a vigorous perennial creeper and climber with arrowhead-shaped, rather fleshy leaves and ribbed stems more than 1 m long.
  • It has greenish white (often tinged with pink or purplish red) flowers clustered in branched inflorescences to 30 cm long.
  • It is a weed of gardens and wasteland that invades native bushland and other natural habitats.
  • This fast growing climber scrambles over and smothers supporting vegetation, reducing native species diversity and altering habitats.
  • Underground tubers make manual control very difficult, and chemical control requires repeated applications over several years.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Rambling Dock (Rumex sagittatus) is a perennial climber with long underground rhizomes (horizontal roots just under the soil surface) that grow to 5 m and produce numerous, turnip-shaped tubers that become woody. The ribbed stems are usually more than 1 m long and trail over the ground or climb over supporting vegetation. Its somewhat fleshy leaves are 6-10 cm long and 3-5 cm wide, spearhead-shaped with two spreading basal lobes to 2.5 cm long. The leaf stalk is at least as long as the blade.

The flower head is large, and shaped like a spread-out bunch of grapes, with separate small clusters of male and female flowers (occasionally bisexual), becoming more obvious when fruiting. Flowers are green or greenish-white. The three petals of a female flower enlarge to surround the fruit. The petals are membranous to papery and pale yellow at maturity, occasionally with pink or purplish red tinges.

The fruit is a small dark nut about 3 mm long, triangular in cross section and enclosed by the inflated petals (Walsh 1996; Thorp & Wilson 1998 – ; Wilson 2000; Muyt 2001; Sainty and Associates 2002; Western Australian Herbarium 2007; Sydney Weeds Committees undated).

For further information and assistance with identification of Rambling Dock contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

White, Green, Pink

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Rambling Dock grows in pasture, wasteland, gardens and other disturbed or modified habitats, as well as invading a variety of native ecosystems including forests, woodlands, rainforest, riparian environments (e.g. along rocky creeks and streams), grassland, coastal or near-coastal shrublands, coastal bluffs and hind-dunes; especially near urban areas. Plants favour damp or seasonally moist sites and are tolerant of periodic inundation of water. While shade tolerant, growth is most vigorous in open, sunny conditions (Walsh 1996; Wilson 2000; Muyt 2001; Weber 2003; Harden et al. 2007; Western Australian Herbarium 2007).

Are there similar species?

Rambling Dock is related to Acetosa vesicaria (known as Rosy Dock, Bladder Dock or Ruby Dock), which is widely naturalised in more arid parts of Australia. Rosy Dock is an erect tufted annual herb with fibrous roots, while Rambling Dock is a perennial climber with thick tuberous roots (Auld & Medd 1992; Wilson 2000; Richardson et al. 2006).

The leaves of the native climbers, Greater Bindweed (Calystegia sepium) and Forest Bindweed (Calystegia marginata), may appear similar to vegetative Rambling Dock in shape, but both these species have smooth, non-ribbed stems and large, solitary, white or pink flowers; they are usually found in moist settings (Muyt 2001).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Native ecosystems: Rambling Dock is a major weed of gardens, disturbed sites and urban bushland that grows rapidly and smothers supporting vegetation, preventing its regeneration, and therefore reducing native species richness (Muyt 2001; Sainty and Associates 2002; Weber 2003).

In one study in the northern Sydney area, Rambling Dock was found to be one of the most common exotic species growing in a sclerophyll woodland, and was primarily located in areas that were nutrient-enriched by run-off from nearby residential developments Weeds of Australia 2016). Rambling Dock is threatening the survival of endangered native plant species. For example, the native she-oak Allocasuarina portuensis only occurs naturally in foreshore vegetation in Nielsen Park, within the Sydney Harbour National Park. Rambling dock (Rumex sagittatus) was one of six invasive weed species dominating the understorey vegetation of this site, and it is thought that the dense groundcover of weeds may be preventing the regeneration of this endangered species (Weeds of Australia 2016).

How does it spread?

Rambling Dock reproduces and is spread by seed and vegetatively (by tubers and rhizomes). Seeds are dispersed by wind and water, as well as by slashing and in garden refuse. Tubers and rhizomes are dispersed by water, soil movement, in garden refuse and during plant removal (Muyt 2001; Sainty and Associates 2002; Weber 2003).

What is its history in Australia?

Rambling Dock was probably brought into Australia as a garden ornamental plant but the date of introduction is not known. It was recorded as a naturalised weed as early as 1890-1900 in the Sydney, Wollongong and Port Macquarie areas (National Herbarium of New South Wales 2007). It appears to have been more recently taken to other states, with the first record from Tasmania in 1968 (Baker 2008 pers. comm.).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Rambling dock can be difficult to control because it is a prolific seeder and regenerates from underground tubers if the top growth is removed. The underground tubers can be very difficult to locate and remove when attempting to control infestations of this species, and it is important that seed capsules and tubers are disposed of carefully to prevent them being spread (Weeds of Australia 2016).

Non-chemical control: Manual control: Seedlings and small plants can be dug out, but you need to make sure that all tubers and rhizomes must be removed. Plants regrow from tubers, and these are hard to locate and dislodge easily (Sainty and Associates 2002; Weber 2003). Removing fruits before they ripen will help prevent seed dispersal.

Fire: Though fire may sometimes be used in such areas as a tool for controlling exotic weeds, it was found that it could maintain its presence post-fire through vegetatively re-sprouting from its underground tubers (Weeds of Australia 2016).

Chemical control: Is also best done before fruits ripen, and repeated applications over several years are necessary for effective control. (Muyt 2001; Weber 2003; Sydney Weeds Committees undated). See the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Rambling Dock plants are evergreen in warmer climates, while in cooler areas foliage dies back in winter with regrowth developing and stems emerging each spring from underground tubers. Rambling Dock flowers mainly in spring to summer and produces numerous seeds over summer to autumn. Seed can remain dormant for at least two years and possibly longer. With sufficient available moisture, germination can occur at any time of the year in warmer climates, but is usually restricted to the warmer months in cooler climates. Plants can reach sexual maturity within a year (Muyt 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Rambling Dock is naturalised in south-eastern Queensland and coastal New South Wales, with scattered occurrences in southern Victoria, Tasmania, south-eastern South Australia and south-western Western Australia. It is most common near towns and other human habitation (Walsh 1996; Wilson 2000; Muyt 2001; Sainty and Associates 2002; Western Australian Herbarium 2007).

Rambling Dock causes most concern in New South Wales and has been declared in some areas (i.e. in northern Sydney) because of its impact as an environmental weed. It is especially common around urban areas and in waste areas near towns. Hence, it appears on many environmental weed lists in the Sydney area (e.g. in Sutherland Shire, Randwick City, Manly Council, Lake Macquarie City, Blue Mountains City, the Sydney Central region, the Sydney North region, and the wider Sydney and Blue Mountains region) (Weeds of Australia 2016).

In Victoria, Rambling Dock has mostly been seen as a problem in coastal or near-coastal shrublands and along waterways near Melbourne and in the east of the state (e.g. in the Kananook Creek area on the Mornington Peninsula). However, it is now thought that the actual distribution of this species may be more widespread than previously recognised, and that it is likely to continue to spread in coastal areas in the future (Weeds of Australia 2016).

Where does it originate?

Rambling Dock is native to southern Africa, from Malawi and Zambia to South Africa (Hyde & Wursten 2008).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Rumex sagittatus


Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Acetosa sagittata (Thunb.) L.A.S. Johnson & B.G. Briggs
  • Rumex luxurians L.f.

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Turkey Rhubarb, Arrow Dock, Arrowhead Vine, Climbing Dock, Red Sorrel, Red Sorrow, Arrowhead Vine, Potato Vine

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