Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Syst. veg. 2: 159 (1825).
2n = 40, 120
Rumex steudelii Hochst. ex A.Rich. (1850), Rumex bequaertii De Wild. (1929), Rumex quarrei De Wild. (1929).
Dock, sorrel (En). Canaigre du pays (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Rumex nepalensis is widespread throughout Africa and the Mediterranean to eastern Asia.
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.
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.
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.
Rumex nepalensis occurs as a weed in disturbed habitats, and in moorland, grassland and bushland at 700–4000 m altitude.
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).
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.
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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.