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Rumex nepalensis Spreng.

Protologue
Syst. veg. 2: 159 (1825).
Family
Polygonaceae
Chromosome number
2n = 40, 120
Synonyms
Rumex steudelii Hochst. ex A.Rich. (1850), Rumex bequaertii De Wild. (1929), Rumex quarrei De Wild. (1929).
Vernacular names
Dock, sorrel (En). Canaigre du pays (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Rumex nepalensis is widespread throughout Africa and the Mediterranean to eastern Asia.
Uses
The leaves and young shoots are locally eaten as a cooked vegetable, but often only in times of scarcity and mixed with other vegetables. In tropical Africa the use as a vegetable is recorded from Rwanda, Kenya and Malawi, and it is also used in South Africa.
In Ethiopia an aqueous rhizome extract is drunk to treat rheumatism, colic, stomach-ache and abdominal pains caused by intestinal parasites. In Tanzania and Ethiopia the roasted rhizome is applied to abscesses and crushed leaves to wounds. The herb is also considered as a medicine for cough and headache, as a laxative, antidote and depurative. In South Africa a strong leaf decoction is said to be effective for schistosomiasis. In Malawi an infusion of the root, often mixed with other ingredients, is used to cure pneumonia, dysentery and venereal diseases. In Rwanda the plant is used to clean blackened cooking pots, and in India the rhizome for dyeing.
Properties
There is no information on the nutritional composition, but it is probably comparable to garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa L.), which is widespread in temperate regions. The rhizome of Rumex nepalensis contains tannin (about 4%), chrysophanic acid (rumicin) and nepodin (nepalin). An aqueous and ethanol extract of the leaves showed antihistaminic, anticholinergic or antibradykinin activities on rabbit skin in vivo.
Botany
Stout, erect, rhizomatous perennial herb up to 1(–2) m tall, with green or pale brown stem. Leaves alternate, simple; ocrea tubular; lower leaves long-petiolate, upper leaves shortly petiolate; blade of lower leaves oblong-ovate, 20–33 cm × 12–20 cm, base cordate, margins undulate-denticulate, crispy or flat, puberulous beneath, blade of cauline and upper leaves broadly ovate-lanceolate, base cordate to rounded or subtruncate. Inflorescence a panicle with spreading branches, almost leafless, with somewhat remote whorls of flowers. Flowers unisexual, usually pendulous; tepals 6, reticulately veined; inner 3 oblong-ovate, 3–5 mm long in fruit, each margin with 5–6 hooked teeth, apex circinately incurled, at least 1 segment with pronounced fusiform tubercle (swollen midvein). Fruit a sharply trigonous, ovoid nut 3–5 mm × 2–2.5 mm, glossy brown.
Rumex comprises about 200 species, many originating from northern temperate regions.
Ecology
Rumex nepalensis occurs as a weed in disturbed habitats, and in moorland, grassland and bushland at 700–4000 m altitude.
Management
Rumex nepalensis is collected from the wild and is not cultivated.
Genetic resources and breeding
Rumex nepalensis is widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion. A large germplasm collection is kept in Germany (Gatersleben).
Prospects
Rumex nepalensis will remain a minor vegetable and medicinal plant, which is only locally important. More research is needed to evaluate its nutritional and medicinal properties.
Major references
• Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
• Graham, R.A., 1958. Polygonaceae. In: Turrill, W.B. & Milne-Redhead, E. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 40 pp.
• Hedberg, O., 2000. Polygonaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse, Demissew Sebsebe & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 2, part 1. Magnoliaceae to Flacourtiaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 336–347.
• Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G., 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. 2nd Edition. E. and S. Livingstone, London, United Kingdom. 1457 pp.
Other references
• Aggarwal, P.K., Kumar, L., Garg, S.K. & Mathur, V.S., 1986. Effect of Rumex nepalensis extracts on histamine, acetylcholine, carbachol, bradykinin, and PGs evoked skin reactions in rabbits. Annals of Allergy 56(2): 177–182.
• Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
• Jansen, P.C.M., 1981. Spices, condiments and medicinal plants in Ethiopia, their taxonomy and agricultural significance. Agricultural Research Reports 906. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 327 pp.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Nguyen Thi Do, 2001. Rumex L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 480–484.
• Rechinger, K.H., 1954. Monograph of the genus Rumex in Africa. Botaniska Notiser 3, supplement 3. 114 pp.
• Robyns, W., 1948. Polygonaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., De Wildeman, E., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Lebrun, J., Louis, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 1. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 396–427.
• van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.
• Westphal, E., 1975. Agricultural systems in Ethiopia. Verslagen van landbouwkundige onderzoekingen 826. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 278 pp.
• Williamson, J., 1955. Useful plants of Nyasaland. The Government Printer, Zomba, Nyasaland. 168 pp. (Reprint: Williamson, J., 1975. Useful plants of Malawi. University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi).
Author(s)
P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
G.J.H. Grubben
Prins Hendriklaan 24, 1401 AT Bussum, Netherlands
O.A. Denton
National Horticultural Research Institute, P.M.B. 5432, Idi-Ishin, Ibadan, Nigeria
Associate Editors
C.-M. Messiaen
Bat. B 3, Résidence La Guirlande, 75, rue de Fontcarrade, 34070 Montpellier, France
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Rumex nepalensis Spreng. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.