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Gunnera is the sole genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Gunneraceae, which contains 63 species. Some species have extremely large leaves. Species in the genus are variously native to Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Papuasia, Hawaii, insular Southeast Asia, Africa, and Madagascar.[2] The stalks of many species are edible.

Gunnera tinctoria at the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum
Scientific classification
Gunnera distribution.svg
The range of the genus Gunnera[1]
  • Milligania Hook.f., rejected name
  • Panke Molina
  • Pankea Oerst.


Gunnera manicata Devon, England

Gunnera manicata Devon, England

Gunnera insignis Costa Rica

Gunnera insignis Costa Rica

The 40–50 species vary enormously in leaf size. The giant rhubarb, or Campos des Loges (Gunnera manicata), native to the Serra do Mar mountains of southeastern Brazil, is perhaps the largest species, with reniform or sub-reniform leaves typically 1.5 to 2.0 meters (4.9 to 6.6 ft) long, not including the thick, succulent petiole which may be up to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in length. The width of the leaf blade is typically 2.5 meters (8.2 feet), but on two separate occasions cultivated specimens (In Devon, England in 2011[3] and at Narrowwater, Ulster, Ireland[4] in 1903) produced leaves fully 3.3 meters (11 feet) in width, not far from the largest of all dicot leaves such as Victoria amazonica. The seeds germinate best in very moist, but not wet, conditions and temperatures of 22–29 °C.

Only slightly smaller is G. masafuerae of the Juan Fernandez Islands off the Chilean coast. They can have leaves up to 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in) in width on stout leaf stalks 1.5 m (4.9 ft) long and 11 cm (4.3 in) thick according to Skottsberg.[5] these leafstalks or petioles are the thickest of any dicot, and probably also the most massive. On nearby Isla Más Afuera, G. peltata frequently has an upright trunk to 5.5 m (18 ft) in height by 25–30 cm (9.8–11.8 in) thick, bearing leaves up to 2 m (6 ft 7 in) wide. The Hoja de Pantano (G. magnifica) of the Colombian Andes bears the largest leaf buds of any plant; up to 60 cm (2.0 ft) long and 40 cm (16 in) thick.[6] The succulent leaf stalks are up to 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in) long. The massive inflorescence of small, reddish flowers is up to 2.3 m (7 ft 7 in) long and weighs about 13 kg. Other giant Gunnera species are found throughout the Neotropics and Hawaii. Gunnera insignis is also known by the name "poor man's umbrella" in Costa Rica.

Several small species are found in New Zealand, notably G. albocarpa, with leaves only 1–2 cm long, and also in South America, with G. magellanica having leaves 5–9 cm wide on stalks 8–15 cm long.


The genus Gunnera was named after the Norwegian botanist Johann Ernst Gunnerus. At first it was assigned to the family Haloragaceae, though that did present difficulties that led to the general recognition of the family Gunneraceae, as had been proposed about the beginning of the 20th century. In the meantime in many publications it had been referred to as being in the Haloragaceae, variously misspelt (as for example "Halorrhagidaceae".[7]) Such references still cause difficulties in consulting earlier works. However, currently Gunnera is firmly assigned to the monogeneric family Gunneraceae.[8]

  1. Gunnera aequatoriensis - Ecuador

  2. Gunnera albocarpa - New Zealand

  3. Gunnera annae - Peru, Bolivia

  4. Gunnera antioquensis L.E.Mora - Colombia

  5. Gunnera apiculata - Bolivia, Argentina

  6. Gunnera arenaria - New Zealand

  7. Gunnera atropurpurea - Colombia, Ecuador

  8. Gunnera berteroi - Bolivia, Argentina, Chile

  9. Gunnera bogotana - Colombia

  10. Gunnera bolivari - Peru, Ecuador

  11. Gunnera bracteata - Robinson Crusoe Island in Chile

  12. Gunnera brephogea - Colombia, Ecuador, Peru

  13. Gunnera caucana - Colombia

  14. Gunnera colombiana - Colombia, Ecuador

  15. Gunnera cordifolia - Tasmania

  16. Gunnera cuatrecasasii - Colombia

  17. Gunnera densiflora - New Zealand

  18. Gunnera dentata - New Zealand

  19. Gunnera diazii - Colombia

  20. Gunnera flavida - New Zealand

  21. Gunnera garciae-barrigae - Colombia

  22. Gunnera hamiltonii - New Zealand

  23. Gunnera hernandezii - Colombia

  24. Gunnera herteri Osten - Uruguay, S Brazil

  25. Gunnera insignis - Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica

  26. Gunnera kauaiensis - Kauai in Hawaii

  27. Gunnera killipiana - Chiapas, Guatemala, Honduras

  28. Gunnera lobata - Tierra del Fuego

  29. Gunnera lozanoi - Colombia

  30. Gunnera macrophylla - Papuasia, Indonesia, Philippines

  31. Gunnera magellanica - W + S South America, Falkland Is.

  32. Gunnera magnifica - Colombia

  33. Gunnera manicata - S Brazil

  34. Gunnera margaretae - Peru, Bolivia

  35. Gunnera masafuerae - Alejandro Selkirk Island (Isla Mas Afuera) in Chile

  36. Gunnera mexicana - Veracruz, Chiapas

  37. Gunnera mixta - New Zealand

  38. Gunnera monoica - New Zealand incl Chatham Islands

  39. Gunnera morae - Colombia

  40. Gunnera peltata - Robinson Crusoe Island in Chile

  41. Gunnera perpensa - Africa, Madagascar

  42. Gunnera peruviana - Ecuador, Peru

  43. Gunnera petaloidea - Hawaii

  44. Gunnera pilosa - Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador

  45. Gunnera pittieriana - Venezuela

  46. Gunnera prorepens- New Zealand

  47. Gunnera quitoensis - Ecuador

  48. Gunnera reniformis - New Guinea

  49. Gunnera saint-johnii - Colombia

  50. Gunnera sanctae-marthae - Colombia

  51. Gunnera schindleri - Bolivia, Argentina

  52. Gunnera schultesii - Colombia

  53. Gunnera silvioana - Ecuador, Colombia

  54. Gunnera steyermarkii - Venezuela

  55. Gunnera strigosa- New Zealand

  56. Gunnera tacueyana - Colombia

  57. Gunnera tajumbina - Ecuador, Colombia

  58. Gunnera talamancana - Costa Rica, Panama

  59. Gunnera tamanensis - Colombia

  60. Gunnera tayrona - Colombia

  61. Gunnera tinctoria - Chile, Argentina

  62. Gunnera venezolana - Venezuela

Cyanobacterial symbiosis

At least some species of Gunnera host endosymbiotic cyanobacteria such as Nostoc punctiforme The cyanobacteria provide fixed nitrogen to the plant, while the plant provides fixed carbon to the microbe.[9] The bacteria enter the plant via glands found at the base of each leaf stalk[1] and initiate an intracellular symbiosis which is thought to provide the plant with fixed nitrogen in return for fixed carbon for the bacterium. This intracellular interaction is unique in flowering plants and may provide insights to allow the creation of novel symbioses between crop plants and cyanobacteria, allowing growth in areas lacking fixed nitrogen in the soil.


The stalks of G. tinctoria (nalcas), from Southern Chile and Argentina, are edible. Their principal use is fresh consumption, but also they are prepared in salads, liquor or marmalade. Leaves of this species are used in covering curanto (a traditional Chilean food).

Gunnera perpensa is a source of traditional medicine in Southern Africa, both in veterinary and human ailments, largely in obstetric and digestive complaints, but also as a wound dressing.[7] It also is eaten in various ways, largely the petioles, flower stalks and leaves, fresh and raw, preferably with skins and fibre removed, which is said to remove bitterness, but also cooked. The plant also is said to be used in making a beer.[10]


Citation Link//doi.org/10.1111%2Fj.1469-8137.1992.tb00067.xBergman, B.; Johansson, C.; Söderbäck, E. (1992). "The NostocGunnera symbiosis". New Phytologist. 122 (3): 379. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.1992.tb00067.x.
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkapps.kew.orgKew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkwww.bbc.com"Abbotsbury Gardens celebrates plant's 'monster' leaves". BBC. 14 October 2011.
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgThe Garden (London) Vol. 63 # 1631 (February 21, 1903) p. 125.
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgDr Carl Skottsberg, , "The Phanerogams of Juan Fernandez Islands", NATURAL HISTORY OF JUAN FERNANDEZ AND EASTER ISLAND (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksells Buktrykeri A.S., 1953) Vol. 2 p.151.
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgDr. Harold St. John, "Gunnera the Magnificent - Giant Herb of Colombia", CHICAGO NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM BULLETIN, Vol. 30 # 1 (January 1959) p. 3 plus photo on front cover.
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgWatt, John Mitchell; Breyer-Brandwijk, Maria Gerdina: The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa 2nd ed Pub. E & S Livingstone 1962 (Described in chapter on Halorrhagidaceae, p 500)
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkwww.jstor.orgWanntorp, L. Wanntorp, H-E. Oxelman, B. Källersjö, M. Phylogeny of Gunnera. Plant Systematics and Evolution Vol. 226, No. 1/2 (March 2001), pp. 85-107 [1]
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgFrancis C. Y. Wong and John C. Meek. Establishment of a functional symbiosis between the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme and the bryophyte Anthoceros punctatus requires genes involved in nitrogen control and initiation of heterocyst differentiation. Microbiology (2002), 148, 315-323 [www.microbiologyresearch.org]
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgFox, Francis William. Food from the veld. Pub: Delta Books (1982) ISBN 978-0908387328
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkgunneraceae.googlepages.comThe Gunnera Gallery
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkwww.chilebosque.clGunnera magellanica pictures from Chilebosque
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkwww.issg.orgGunnera tinctoria
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkwww.plantzafrica.comGunnera perpensa
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkweb.archive.org[2]
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkdoi.org10.1111/j.1469-8137.1992.tb00067.x
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkapps.kew.orgKew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkwww.bbc.com"Abbotsbury Gardens celebrates plant's 'monster' leaves"
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkwww.jstor.org[1]
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM
Citation Linkgunneraceae.googlepages.comThe Gunnera Gallery
Sep 20, 2019, 11:46 AM