Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Dock leaves in an emergency

Posted on by royvickery |

WEDOR 023Roy Vickery writes:  I was born in 1947 and lived the first 18 years of my life in rural west Dorset, there I was taught, I assume by my mother, that if I ever needed to defecate while  playing outside far away from the house, dock (Rumex obtusifolius) leaves could be used as toilet paper.  They were soft, yet tough, and did the job well (possibly better than the cut-up pages of the Farmer’s Weekly, which in those days were used indoors  for this purpose).    I assume using dock leaves when needing to defecate out of doors in the country was something everyone did, but there are no further records of the practice in P-LA.  Was it restricted to my family, did other people also do so to the extent that it’s considered too well-known to merit mention, or are people simply embarrassed about recording such things?  Whatever the case, it’s a practice which is well worth reviving; all too often one comes across slow-decaying paper tissues littering secluded areas.

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1) Plant-lore Archive contains one contribution relevant to this query, from a Canon Pyon, Herefordshire, couple, communicated in August 1998: ‘Dock leaf very handy for cure of nettle [Urtica dioica] stings, also handy if taken short on a long walk.’

2) From Pat Duggan, March 2020:  ‘I was born in 1948 in Croydon (gran was a farmer), and told that dock leaves were outdoor loo-paper, and the veins side works very well, as well as the plant leaf being cooling.’

Image: dock growing in Buccleuch Gardens, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames; July 2016.

Updated 15 March 2020.

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