Docks are exceedingly difficult to identify accurately in the vegetative (non-flowering) stage. Most species, including the commonly found curled dock, grow to around 1 m in height.
Docks are long-lived perennials and develop a deep taproot. They usually germinate in autumn and develop into rosettes through the winter. A flowering stem emerges in spring and the seed matures through summer. The stems usually die back during autumn and the plants over-winter as rosettes. The stems of the plant are relatively thick and hollow, usually hairless and somewhat fleshy in nature. The leaves of the plant vary in size depending on their position on the stem; however, they are usually arrow- or heart-shaped. The crown leaves at the base rosettes are typically 20–25 cm long with a rounded tip and base, while further up the stem the leaves reduce in size to become much shorter and narrower.
The flowers grow in clusters at the tip of the stem and each is made up of three small petals, growing on stalks typically around 5–6 mm long, while the fruit is a small three-sided nut surrounded by three papery segments.