Considered as medicine for sexually transmitted diseases, the Brazilian Giant-rhubarb is a large, clump-forming perennial with stout horizontal stems known as rhizomes, massive umbrella-sized leaves.
The leaves of Gunnera manicata grow to an impressive size Leaves with diameters well in excess of 4 ft (122 cm) are commonplace, with a spread of 10 ft (3 m) by 10 ft (3 m) on a mature plant. The underside of the leaf and the whole stalk have spikes on them. In early summer it bears tiny red-green flowers in conical branched panicles, followed by small, spherical fruit. However, it is primarily cultivated for its massive leaves. This plant grows best in damp conditions such as near garden ponds but dislikes winter cold and wet. Over winter the plant dies down but grows new leaves in spring.
Once established, they can be very invasive and form dense colonies, suppressing native plants as the large leaves prevent other plants from growing underneath them. They can also impede water flow through the obstruction of drainage in adjacent streams and rivers particularly when water levels are high. Do you think you can use them as umbrellas?
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