The Gunnera gallery: symbionts

Images and an introduction to the plant family Gunneraceae

Plant parts










Gunnera plants have two important symbiosis. One is with Mycorrhizal fungae in the soil, which aid in the uptake of phosphates. This is widespread in several groups of plants. For further information, see

  • Koske, R. E., J. N. Gemma & M. F. Doyle. 1992. Mycorrhizal status of Gunnera petaloidea in Hawaii. Pacific Science 46: 480–483.

Gunnera harbours symbiotic nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria of the genus Nostoc. The plant produces a clear mucilage which keeps its apex moist and which attract soil caynobacteria, some of which come to live as symbionts within specilized tissues in the plants stem, visible as blueishing green blobs in cross-sectioned stems.   This symbiosis means that Gunnera can grow in nitrate poor soils, such as sandy bogs and rocky cliffs.

For further information on the symbiosis, see description and images here, from Stockholm university. Or see the publications below:

  • Benson, J. & Margulis, L. 2002. The Gunnera manicata - Nostoc symbiosis: is the red stipulate tissue symbiogenetic? Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 102b: 45–48.
  • Bergman, B., Johansson, C. & Söderbäck, E. 1992. Tansley Review No. 42: the Nostoc Gunnera symbiosis. New Phytologist 122: 379–400.
  • Osborn, B., F. Doris, A. Cullen, R. McDonald, G. Campbell & M. Steer. 1991. Gunnera tinctoria: An unusual nitrogen-fixing invader. BioScience 41: 224–234.




Some literature