Rumex palustris

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPolygonaceaeRumexRumex palustris


An annual, biennial or short-lived perennial, typical of wet, nutrient-rich mud exposed in summer and autumn, most often in marshes and beside ponds and ditches, but also in clay- and gravel-pits and on damp disturbed ground. It is also an occasional weed of dry open sites, and has been recorded as a ballast alien. Lowland.



World Distribution

European Temperate element.

Broad Habitats

Standing water and canals

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 8

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 8

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.2

Annual Precipitation (mm): 637

Height (cm): 60

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 235

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.31

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Rumex palustris Smith

Marsh dock

Status: not scarce


R. palustris grows in very similar habitats to R. maritimus; indeed the two species have often been observed together. Typical of wet nutrient-rich mud exposed in late summer and autumn, R. palustris is somewhat more terrestrial and ruderal than its relative. Although most common by ponds and ditches, R. palustris also occurs in wet depressions in grassland, on newly cut peat, by gravel pits and, within its core range, as a frequent weed of spoil dredged from rivers and drainage channels. Like R. maritimus, it is a rare weed in dry open sites, particularly as a ballast casual. It occurs naturally only in the lowlands.

R. palustris is normally a biennial or short-lived perennial, although occasionally behaving as an annual. It reproduces entirely by seed, which is produced in great numbers. Like R. maritimus, it is a pioneer, being able to colonise new sites where competition is low. Its dependence on wet mud and varying water levels means that its population size in any one year may be greatly affected by the weather.

Although R. palustris is declining in Britain, the trend is not so pronounced as in R. maritimus, and, though less widespread overall, it remains significantly commoner than its relative in some areas e.g. the Fenland and the Somerset Levels and Moors. R. palustris has also suffered from the landscape being more intensively managed and would benefit from the creation of more ponds, particularly if their level was allowed to vary naturally and their shores were to be grazed and trampled by stock or waterfowl. 

R. palustris is much less widespread than R. maritimus. It occurs through most of central Europe, but is absent from Ireland, Fennoscandia and the Iberian peninsula, and rare in Italy and the Balkans (Jalas & Suominen 1979). It extends into European Russia and temperate western Asia, but reaches neither Siberia nor the Americas.


J. O. Mountford

Atlas text references

Atlas (181b)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Jalas & Suominen (1979)
Lousley JE, Kent DH
1981.  Docks and knotweeds of the British Isles. Botanical Society of the British Isles Handbook no. 3.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.