Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is twelfth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…
Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.
Botanical Name: Rumex sanguineus
Common Names: bloody dock, bloody sorrel, bloodwort, red-veined dock, redvein dock, red-veined sorrel, wood dock
History: A member of the buckwheat family, bloody dock is native to Europe and parts of Asia and northern Africa. It has also naturalized in parts of North America and can be found growing in ditches and unkempt areas. Bloody dock gets its name from the deep red veins running through the leaves (and the Latin name ‘sanguineus’ means bloody or blood-coloured).
Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: None (although it may share the same meaning as dock/Rumex crispus: “patience”– which, with its bloody appearance, may read as somewhat more menacing!)
Cultivation: Perennial in USDA zones 4 to 8 (can also be grown as an annual). In mild climates it stays evergreen. Grows best in full sun to part shade. Reaches 18″ (about 46 cm) both in height and width (flower stalk can reach 30″/76 cm). Prefers average to moist soil (does well around ponds or in water gardens). The flowers are tiny and unremarkable. Keep plants attractive by removing old foliage in spring and removing flowers (this will also prevent self seeding). Propagate by seed or division in early spring; sow seeds directly into the ground. Fertilize annually in spring. Can have issues with slugs, rust, and powdery mildew. Can become invasive if allowed to go to seed.
Medicinal: High in vitamin C, as well as beta carotene, iron, and potassium. A decoction of the leaves can be used externally as an antiseptic and astringent to help heal cuts, burns, rashes, wounds, and other skin irritations and inflammations. An infusion of the root can help stop bleeding.
Caution: All parts of bloody dock contain oxalic acid, which can irritate the urinary tract and cause kidney stones. May cause skin irritation for particularly sensitive people. Those allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to bloody dock.
Caution 2: Oxalic acid is toxic to dogs and cats. Do not let your pets eat or chew on bloody dock. It’s apparently safe for wildlife and livestock.
Ornamental: The attractive leaves are ideal in borders or herb gardens. The flowers are insignificant and should be removed to maintain the attractiveness of the leaves (and to prevent self seeding). If the plant does go to seed, cut it back hard afterwards to rejuvenate it. Pairs well with plants that have light green or purple foliage or red or blue flowers.
Culinary: Bloody dock is one of the first spring greens in the garden. The young leaves have a slightly sour, lemony flavour, thanks to oxalic acid (present in all parts of the plant), which can cause kidney stones and blood mineral imbalances. It can also cause contact dermatitis in some people. Eat in moderation or avoid altogether if you’re particularly sensitive or at risk. You can boil the leaves in several changes of water to reduce the oxalic acid, if you want. Older leaves are too bitter to be palatable. Serve young bloody dock leaves like spinach (after boiling, drain, and heat with olive oil or butter and garlic, or add to any dish you would use spinach in). They’re also a nice addition to soup. Leaves can be eaten raw in small amounts. Bloody dock can be grown as a microgreen. Once seeds have turned brown they can be eaten raw or cooked.
Natural Dye: The roots can yield a dark green, dark brown, or dark grey dye. No mordant is needed. The leaves produce a medium green or dark brown dye, depending on mordant.
Mara’s Uses: Although, she might include bloody dock in her medicinal tonics, Mara’s main interest in this plant would be as part of her experiments in creating a blood substitute.
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Aspasía S. Bissas