It is a large, clump-forming herbaceous perennial growing to 2.5 m (8 ft) tall by 4 m (13 ft) or more. The leaves of Gunnera grow to an impressive size. Leaves with diameters well in excess of 4 ft (122 cm) are commonplace, with a spread of 10 ft (3 m) by 10 ft (3 m) on a mature plant. The underside of the leaf and the whole stalk have spikes on them. In early summer it bears tiny red-green flowers in conical branched panicles, followed by small, spherical fruit. However, it is primarily cultivated for its massive leaves.
This plant grows best in damp conditions e.g. by the side of garden ponds, but dislikes winter cold and wet.
Despite the common name, this plant is not closely related to the rhubarb. However, according to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens 'Collection' page it is edible when young.Peel the leaf stems, slice and enjoy raw in salads.
- Pink, A. (2004). Gardening for the Million. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
- Gunnera manicata
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