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Useful Temperate Plants

Gunnera perpensa

L.

Gunneraceae

+ Synonyms

Gunnera calthifolia Salisb.

Perpensum blitispermum Burm.f.

Common Name: Wild Rhubarb

Gunnera perpensa
Leaves, flowers and a frog
Photograph by: Annie and Annuals
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
Gunnera perpensa Gunnera perpensa Gunnera perpensa Gunnera perpensa

General Information

Gunnera perpensa is a perennial herb up to 1 metre tall, growing from a more or less elongated, usually creeping rhizome that is up to 3 cm[
308
Title
Flora Zambesiaca
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://apps.kew.org/efloras/fz/intro.html
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online flora of plants from the Zambezi River basin. It lists a number of the plant uses as well as the habitats and botanical descriptions of the plants.
].
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and a medicine[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
]. A popular medicine in S. Africa, where the plant is predominantly collected from the wild and is sold in markets, pharmacies and supermarkets with a high market value[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
]. The plant also has potential for use in soil stabilization and restoration projects[
1922
Title
Gunneraceae
Publication
Flora Neotropica Monograph 109
Author
Mora-Osejo L.E., Pabón-Mora N. & González F.
Publisher
The New York Botanical Garden Press; New York
Year
2011
ISBN
978-0-89327-508-2
Description
 
].
The population of Gunnera perpensa in S. Africa is declining due to destructive over-harvesting and destruction of its wetland habitats. The plant has become seriously endangered in South Africa, therefore cultivation trials have been carried out in the country[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
]. This is, however, a widespread species that is found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and, globally, the plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2018)[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

308
Title
Flora Zambesiaca
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://apps.kew.org/efloras/fz/intro.html
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online flora of plants from the Zambezi River basin. It lists a number of the plant uses as well as the habitats and botanical descriptions of the plants.

Range

Eastern Africa - Sudan and Ethiopia south through eastern DR Congo and Tanzania to S. Africa and Madagascar.

Habitat

Swamps, on damp cool ground and in grass by streams; upland forest level; at elevations from 1,500 - 3,800 metres[
328
Title
African Flowering Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/bd/cjb/africa/recherche.php
Publisher
Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques.
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Contains information on over 150,000 plant names (including synonyms) giving a description and habitat, plus a distribution map.
].

Properties

Conservation StatusLeast Concern
Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
HabitPerennial
Height0.45 m
PollinatorsWind
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Wild

Cultivation Details

Although it can grow at quite high elevations in the tropics, this species cannot tolerate frost and even when growing in warm protective areas it will die back for the coldest months of the year[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].
Grows in the wild in wet soil or shallow water[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
]. An obligate wetland plant, it grows in shallow water around the edge of pools in marshy areas or along streams[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].
The top part of the inflorescence is male, the bottom is female and the middle is hermaphrodite[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
233
Title
Perennial Garden Plants
Publication
 
Author
Thomas. G. S.
Publisher
J. M. Dent & Sons, London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0 460 86048 8
Description
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
].
It is believed that species of the genus Gunnera have existed for about 95 million years[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].
Gunnera species are unique in the plant realm through having a symbiotic relationship with a cyanobacteria (Nostoc punctiforme and others). This relationship provides nitrogen to the Gunnera and carbon to the cyanobacteria[
1922
Title
Gunneraceae
Publication
Flora Neotropica Monograph 109
Author
Mora-Osejo L.E., Pabón-Mora N. & González F.
Publisher
The New York Botanical Garden Press; New York
Year
2011
ISBN
978-0-89327-508-2
Description
 
]. The genus Nostoc is cosmopolitan and common, so it is likely to be naturally present in the wet habitats in which Gunnera grows[
1093
Title
Invasive Species Compendium
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.cabi.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An immense resource - in depth information on over 900 species of invasive plants (it also has information on animals, fungi etc).
,
1922
Title
Gunneraceae
Publication
Flora Neotropica Monograph 109
Author
Mora-Osejo L.E., Pabón-Mora N. & González F.
Publisher
The New York Botanical Garden Press; New York
Year
2011
ISBN
978-0-89327-508-2
Description
 
].

Edible Uses

Leaves - chewed or cooked[
177
Title
Plants for Human Consumption.
Publication
 
Author
Kunkel. G.
Publisher
Koeltz Scientific Books
Year
1984
ISBN
3874292169
Description
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of Latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
].
Leaf stems and flower stalks - raw[
177
Title
Plants for Human Consumption.
Publication
 
Author
Kunkel. G.
Publisher
Koeltz Scientific Books
Year
1984
ISBN
3874292169
Description
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of Latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
,
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
]. The petioles have a bitter taste unless the fibrous vascular bundles and the outer covering are removed[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].

The plant (part not specified but likely to be the petiole) is cooked and eaten as a vegetable[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].
The plant is an ingredient in traditional beer[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Medicinal

A decoction of the roots is used to treat dyspepsia, male impotence; to help expel the placenta after birth; and to relieve menstrual pains[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
1321
Title
Swaziland's Flora - siSwati Names and Uses
Publication
 
Author
Chris Long
Website
http://www.sntc.org.sz/flora/chrislong.asp
Publisher
 
Year
2005
ISBN
 
Description
A basic, but very long, list of names and uses.
]. The decoction, in brandy, is used to treat kidney problems[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
].
An infusion of the root has been taken both internally and externally as a treatment for psoriasis[
407
Title
BoDD (Botanical Dermatology Database)
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://bodd.cf.ac.uk/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Brief notes on a very wide range of plants that have reports of causing harm to the skin.
].
The root has been used to make a dressing for wounds[
407
Title
BoDD (Botanical Dermatology Database)
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://bodd.cf.ac.uk/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Brief notes on a very wide range of plants that have reports of causing harm to the skin.
].

The leaves, rhizomes roots and stems of this species are widely used in traditional medicine in southern Africa. Some uses include relieving pains such as headaches and menstrual cramps; helping in childbirth and stimulating milk production; as well as treating infections and parasites; colds, infertility, cancer and heart disease[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Studies have shown that extracts of this plant are potentially anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, lactogenic, and uterotonic although long term use may have detrimental effects such as diarrhoea and leg paralysis[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].In traditional medicines a decoction of the plant is used to remove excess fluid from the body or excess blood and the placenta in humans and cattle[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].

The plant is rich in tannins.

Agroforestry Uses:

Gunnera species have a high potential for use in the recovery of lands affected by erosion, given their condition as colonizing plants that are capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen through symbiosis with the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiform[
1922
Title
Gunneraceae
Publication
Flora Neotropica Monograph 109
Author
Mora-Osejo L.E., Pabón-Mora N. & González F.
Publisher
The New York Botanical Garden Press; New York
Year
2011
ISBN
978-0-89327-508-2
Description
 
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a sandy mix in a cold frame[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. The seed can also be sown in the spring[
188
Title
The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers
Publication
 
Author
Brickell. C.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd.
Year
1990
ISBN
0-86318-386-7
Description
Excellent range of photographs, some cultivation details but very little information on plant uses.
]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Division as new growth commences in the spring[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2022-09-30. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Gunnera+perpensa>

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