Gunnera tinctoria ©

Gunnera tinctoria: Exploring the Fascinating Giant Rhubarb

Gunnera tinctoria, commonly known as Giant Rhubarb or Chilean Rhubarb, is a remarkable plant that hails from Southern Chile and Argentina. Despite its name, it is not closely related to the traditional rhubarb. Belonging to the Gunneraceae family, Gunnera tinctoria shares a resemblance to the rhubarb plant from a distance, but it possesses distinct features that set it apart.


Gunnera tinctoria is an impressive clump-forming herbaceous perennial that can reach a height of approximately 2 meters or 7 feet. Its large leaves, palmate in shape and deeply lobed, create an eye-catching display. During the winter season, the foliage of Gunnera tinctoria dies down, only to regrow vigorously in the following spring.

The plant produces cone-shaped flowers in a striking yellowish-red hue. These flowers bloom from late spring through summer and give way to seedheads that contain a staggering number of seeds, with each seedhead capable of producing up to 80,000 seeds.

How to grow Gunnera tinctoria:

To successfully cultivate Gunnera tinctoria, consider the following guidelines:

Light and Soil Requirements: Grow Gunnera tinctoria in a sheltered location that receives full sun or partial shade. It thrives in humus-rich, moist soil and prefers boggy conditions. Adequate water supply is essential for its growth and vitality.

Invasive Nature: It’s important to note that Gunnera tinctoria is considered invasive in certain regions, such as New Zealand and the European Union. The shade cast by its large leaves can prevent the growth of other plants in its vicinity.

Gunnera tinctoria
Large leaves of Gunnera tinctoria at Kew Garden, London

Culinary and Cultural Significance:

In its native region, Gunnera tinctoria, known as Nalca or Pangue in Chile, holds cultural and culinary importance. The stalks of Gunnera tinctoria are consumed similarly to rhubarb stalks and can be enjoyed fresh or used to make delicious jams. Additionally, the large leaves of Gunnera tinctoria play a significant role in traditional Chilean cuisine.

They are used in the preparation of Curanto, a mouthwatering dish that features a variety of ingredients such as seafood, meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Traditionally, Curanto is cooked in a hole in the ground where red-hot stones are placed at the bottom. The ingredients are then layered and separated by Nalca leaves, adding a unique flavor and aroma to the dish. Nowadays, Curanto is also prepared in pots, and sometimes Gunnera tinctoria leaves are replaced with fig leaves or cabbage.

The captivating Gunnera tinctoria enchants with its imposing presence and cultural significance. Whether grown for its ornamental appeal, as a focal point in a garden landscape, or for its culinary uses, this giant rhubarb offers a fascinating botanical experience that transcends boundaries.

Cone-shaped flowers of Gunnera tinctoria
Thorny stems of Gunnera tinctoria
Gunnera tinctoria
Gunnera tinctoria
Gunnera tinctoria
Giant clump-forming Gunnera tinctoria

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