Gunnera tinctoria, G. manicata

Gunnera tinctoria is a PERENNIAL growing to 2 m (6ft 7in).

It is hardy to zone (UK) 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

USDA hardiness zone : 6-9

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Meadow; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Stem.

Edible Uses:

Young leaf stalks - peeled and cooked as a vegetable or eaten raw[2, 177, 183]. Acid and refreshing[139].

Medicinal Use


The whole plant is astringent[139].

Other Uses

Dye; Roofing; Tannin.

A black dye is obtained from the root[139]. The root contains 9% tannin[46, 139]. Leaves are used as a roof covering[139].

Cultivation details

Requires a damp humus rich soil in a sunny position or semi-shade, sheltered from strong winds. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn[233]. The rootstock is rather tender, surviving to -10°c and requiring some protection away from the milder parts of Britain. This can be achieved by piling either bracken or the plants dying leaves around the crown[187]. The top part of the inflorescence is male, the bottom is female and the middle is hermaphrodite. A very ornamental plant with huge leaves, it forms a slowly spreading dense clump[187]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233].


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a sandy mix in a cold frame. The seed can also be sown in a shady position in a greenhouse in the spring. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 8 weeks at 15°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division as new growth commences in the spring. The clumps can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.

Gunnera tinctoria (Molina) Mirb. GUNNERACEAE

Synonyms: Gunnera chilensis Lam., Gunnera scabra Ruiz & Pav.

Common names: Panke (Sturtevant)

Chile. Much like G. manicata but forms smaller clumps, leaf stalks shorter, blades to 150 cm wide, rounded in outline with sharply pointed lobes. Panicle shorter, more cylindrical, fls. and fruit usually more strongly red-tinted (Griffiths 1994:532) G. chilensis: Patagonia. To 6 ft. Leaf blades orbicular-reniform, palmately lobed, coarsely toothed, to 5 ft. across, scabrous, fleshy prickles on veins beneath, long petioles. Infl. a dense cylindrical panicle to 3 ft. high, the branches spicate to 3” long, rigid, fleshy, contiguous in fruit (Hortus Third 1976:528) Cult. for ornament. Lvs. to 3 m across. Peeled young petioles eaten in Chile (Mabberley 1998:319) G. scabra: In Chiloe Is. I noticed some v. fine plants of the panke growing on the sandstone cliffs. It somewhat resembles the rhubarb on a gigantic scale. The inhabitants eat the stalks, which are subacid, and tan leather with the roots, and prepare a black dye from them. I measured one leaf which was nearly eight feet in diameter, and therefore no less than twenty-four in circumference. The stalk is rather more than a yard high, and each plant sends out four or five of these enormous leaves, presenting together a very noble appearance. (Darwin) G. chilensis: In 1870 grown for ornament in France (Sturtevant 1972 [1919]:296) G. chilensis: Juan Fernandez is a small island in the W Pacific, 400 miles W of Valparaiso. Most trees have been exterminated for firewood. One of the most prominent herbs is this. The procumbent rhizomes creep along the ground, throwing up leaf-stalks 8 and 10 feet high. The leaves frequently measure 15 feet across, forming a canopy under which one can easily ride on the small Chilean horses (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1893:Juan Fernandez) Valid species & G. chilensis; G. scabra not in GRIN (GRIN 2006)