In Christchurch, I visited Mona Vale Gardens, a spectacular showplace of beautiful plants and flowers. I saw the most amazing plant there, with gigantic leaves that towered over my friend and myself like a giant umbrella. I never got the name of it and, in a computer crash several years ago, I lost all pictures I had of this interesting plant.
This past week, I went out with my good friend, Joanne Olivieri ( aka Poetic Shutterbug ) to San Francisco's Botannical Gardens and, as we were walking back to the car after a morning of photography, there was the plant - actually, a whole row of the same plants - right in front of us.
These specimens looked like something from outer space ( well, I've never traveled to that destination but it's what I imagine you might find on another planet ). I did get quite a few pictures of this gunnera tinctoria plant which was tagged as originating in Chile.
According to Wikipedia, there are 40 to 50 species of this plant, of varying leaf sizes. The plant is often called a "giant rhubarb" or "dinosaur" plant. They can be started from seeds, bulbs or plants and need consistently moist soil, rich in humus but well draining. They like sun but full sun can blister their leaves. They will need a large amount of growing space as the plants can grow to 12 feet wide!
The young leaf stalks of gunnera tinctoria ( they can grow to five feet long ) can be cooked as a vegetable or eaten raw. The roots are used to make a black dye.
Here are my pictures from the San Francisco Botannical Gardens.
San Francisco Botannical Gardens, Gunnera tinctoria, Chile
Unfurling leave of gunnera tinctoria
Prickly stem of gunnera
Gunnera tinctoria flower