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(Gunnera family)


This family comprises a single genus found growing in the southern hemisphere from tropical regions to Antarctica (Mabberley 1987). A few species are grown as ornamentals and are therefore known to gardeners and horticulturists in the northern hemisphere. The peeled young leaf stalks (petioles) of some species are used as food.

Until recently, these plants were classified in the family Haloragaceae, otherwise known as Halorrhagaceae or Haloragidaceae (Willis 1973).

At least one species is recorded as being used in folk medicine for the treatment for psoriasis and as a wound dressing.

Gunnera L.

The genus comprises about 40 species (Mabberley 1987). The leaves of many of the species bear a superficial resemblance to those of rhubarb.

Gunnera perpensa L.

Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) note that an infusion of the root has been used both internally and externally in southern Africa for psoriasis and that the root has been used in making a dressing for wounds.

Gunnera manicata Linden
Giant Rhubarb, Prickly Rhubarb

The leaf stalks are covered in stout prickles that can cause mechanical injury.


  • Mabberley DJ (1987) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the higher plants. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [WorldCat] [url]
  • Willis JC (1973) A Dictionary of the Flowering Plants and Ferns, 8th edn. (Revised by Airy Shaw HK). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat]

Richard J. Schmidt [Valid HTML 4.01!]

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