Thursday, December 4, 2008


There are several clumps of Gunnera at Paulik Park in Richmond. These plants, which people instinctively call "Giant rhubarb," are quite common in gardens here, even in small lots where they tend to get larger than the house. The common species, G. tinctoria, is native to Chile. In some places it remains evergreen, but in cooler climates (including here) the leaves die off after the first few frosts.

April 29.

In mid-spring it rises again, pushing up like zombie arms.

May 22.
The fearful flower heads shoot up in May, spikes that contain both male and female flowers. Each may produce more than 80,000 seeds, which can be spread by birds or water.

May 29.
The leaves expand throughout early summer

September 13.

Then, as summer wears on, it starts to look sort of tired.

October 4.

Brown patches and tatters in fall mean it's time to sharpen the loppers.

November 24.

Ouch, frost.

December 1.
And in putting the garden to bed, the leaves are lopped and piled on the base of the plant. At a previous home we had two large patches of Gunnera, and the leaf-lopping was always a melancholy chore, cold hands and clouds of breath.


beetles in the bush said...

That is a spectacular plant in May - you almost expect to see a little Coelophysis dart out from behind it (okay, I know technically angiosperms hadn't arisen yet, but bear with me here).
regards -- ted

Hugh said...

That's okay, Ted. I would love it to be a Coelophysis rather than the yappy little off-leash Coelophysis-snacks that one often encounters there.