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Genus Rumex Family Polygonaceae

Synonyms: Emex APNI*
Acetosa APNI*
Acetosella APNI*

Description: Perennial or annual herbs, usually erect, rarely rhizomatous, usually with a basal rosette of leaves, with or without stem leaves.

Leaves petiolate or subsessile, not articulate; nectaries absent; ocrea short-tubular, brown to whitish, membranous, entire but soon disintegrating.

Flowers usually bisexual (occasionally unisexual), clustered at nodes in simple or branched spike-like or panicle-like inflorescences. Perianth segments 6 (rarely 5), not winged or keeled, innermost 3 ('valves') enlarging and thickening in fruit, often producing marginal teeth and/or dorsal callosities. Stamens 6 (rarely 4 or 5); anthers basifixed. Style trifid, short; stigmas flattened, fimbriate, delicate.

Achene trigonous, enclosed in persistent perianth valves.

Photo L. von Richter

Distribution and occurrence: World: 194 species, cosmopolitan, chiefly in Northern Hemisphere temperate regions. Australia: 19 species, all States.

This genus is taken here in a wide sense, including several former segregates (Acetosa, Acetosella, Bucephalophora and Emex). Besides the native and naturalised species, R. sanguineus L. is occasionally cultivated for its edible leaves with bright red/purple veins but it is not known to be naturalised in NSW and is not included in the key.

Text by K. L. Wilson (1993); key updated by H. Sauquet (Oct 2020); text edited KL Wilson (Jan 2021)
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Rumex x pratensis

 Key to the species 
1Outer 3 perianth segments smaller than inner 3, not spiny or hardened2
Outer 3 perianth segments in female flowers enlarged and hardened in fruit and produced in a rigid spreading spine; perianth segments subequal in male flowers4
2Flowers unisexual; inner 3 perianth segments scarcely exceeding the nut; leaves hastateRumex acetosella
Flowers mostly bisexual; inner 3 perianth segments much exceeding nut; leaves variable
                       Back to 1
3Leaves hastate or sagittate at base; inner 3 perianth segments membranous, inflated5
Leaves rounded, cuneate or cordate at the base; inner 3 perianth segments leathery, not inflated, often toothed
                       Back to 2
4Visible part of 3 inner segments of fruiting perianth broad-triangular to broad-ovate, with a short pungent mucro; fruiting perianth 9–13 mm wide including spines (each 2–5 mm long)Rumex hypogaeus
Visible part of 3 inner segments of fruiting perianth ± narrow-oblong, with an acute apex but without a pungent mucro; fruiting perianth 4–6 mm wide including the spines (each 1–2 mm long)
                       Back to 1
Rumex spinosus
5Erect tufted annual with fibrous roots; valves 12–23 mm long, c. 15 mm wide, often tinged bright pink or purplishRumex vesicarius
Perennial climber with thick tuberous roots; valves 4–7 mm long, 6–9 mm wide, straw-coloured at maturity, occasionally with pink or purplish tinge
                       Back to 3
Rumex sagittatus
6Fruiting valves without teeth7
Fruiting valves with lateral teeth
                       Back to 3
7Callosities absent; fruiting valves 10–15 mm longRumex hymenosepalus
Callosities present; fruiting valves less than 7 mm long
                       Back to 6
8Fruiting valves 3.5–6 mm long and wide, with callosity small and not covering most of valve surface; fruiting pedicel 3–7 mm long; flower whorls close together, rarely lowermost subtended by a leafRumex crispus
Fruiting valves 2.2–3.2 mm long, 1–1.7 mm wide, with callosity large and covering most of valve surface; fruiting pedicel 1–2.5 mm long; flower whorls distant and each whorl mostly subtended by a leaf
                       Back to 7
Rumex conglomeratus
9Valves either with 1–3 straight or slightly curved teeth on each side and a straight or slightly curved tip, or with margins much divided10
Valves with 3–5 hooked teeth on each side and with a hooked tip
                       Back to 6
Rumex brownii
10Water plant with inflated prostrate and/or floating unbranched stems, rooting at nodes; callosities present as convex lumps not distinct from valvesRumex bidens
Land plant with erect, often intricately branched stems, not rooting at nodes; callosities absent or present as distinct convex lumps on valves
                       Back to 9
11Basal leaves ovate-oblong or elliptic, c. 2–3 times as long as broad12
Basal leaves linear to lanceolate, at least 5 times as long as broad
                       Back to 10
12Flower whorls more or less close together, without subtending leaf; fruiting pedicels slender, at least twice as long as valves, articulate well below middleRumex obtusifolius
Flower whorls distant, each with a subtending leaf; fruiting pedicels thick, c. as long as valves, articulate eventually c. midway along their length
                       Back to 11
Rumex pulcher
13Perennials; valves 2.5–6 mm long; plants drying green or brown but not orange; stems flexuous to intricate14
Annual; valves 1.5–2.3 mm long; plants usually drying orange; stems erect
                       Back to 11
Rumex crystallinus
14Flowers 2–8 per whorl; leaves 8–20 mm wide, 5–20 times as long as broad15
Flowers numerous per whorl; leaves c. 5 mm wide, 18–30 times as long as broad
                       Back to 13
Rumex tenax
15Valves broad-triangular, c. 3 mm wide, with 2 or 3 teeth on each side, callosities present or absentRumex dumosus
Valves narrowly tongue-shaped, c. 1.5 mm wide, with 1 spreading tooth near base on each side, callosities present
                       Back to 14
Rumex stenoglottis

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