See it in the Water Gardens
Probably one of the biggest and most spectacular of herbaceous
perennials,Gunnera manicata, or giant rhubarb, is native to South
America from Colombia to Brazil. This clump forming giant will
happily grow to 2.5 metres, spreading easily to 4 metres or more.
The leaves are so big they can be used as umbrellas!
This plant grows best in moist soils in sheltered positions as
it dislikes cold winds and cold winters. Being herbaceous,
the leaves die down in autumn and can be used to cover the plant's
base over winter, giving some extra protection.
There are about 40 species ofGunneraworldwide ranging from this
giant to the tinyGunneraalbocarpain New Zealand, with leaves only
1-2 cm long!
All types ofGunnerahave formed a symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing
bacteria, which live in the bases of the leaf stalks. Nitrogen, one
of the main plant nutrients, is often in short supply in wet soils
and this relationship where the bacteria turn nitrogen gas from the
air into a usable form of nitrogen for the plant allowing the
plants to thrive.
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