River Pumpkin

Gunnera perpensa

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The river pumpkin is a marsh-plant that can only grow in very wet sites. The leaves of this plant resemble those of a pumpkin, hence its common name. It is important to note that the plants will die back in the cold, winter months, even in the warmest of areas. The flower stalks and petioles as well as the leaf stems are edible and are consumed by native people across the world.
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Planning

Difficulty

Moderate

Flowering time

Spring, Summer

Fruiting time

Autumn

Harvesting

Pick leaves as needed.

Propagation

Rhizomes

Break off a rhizome with eyes and soon a new leave will emerge.

Division

Divide the clumps as they grow thick.

Special features

Wet sites

Requires a wet, marshy site to grow. It is most commonly found in wetlands and along riverbanks.

Attracts birds

Birds feed on the fleshy, red berries.

Special features

Origin

Southern Africa, Madagascar, New Zealand, Tasmania, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hawaii, Mexico, Central and South America

Natural climate

Tropical and Sub-tropical

Environment

Light

Partial Shade, Partial Sun

Soil moisture

Wet

Soil type

Clay, Loam, Sand

Soil PH preference

Neutral

Frost hardiness

Tender

Uses

Medicinal

Indigenous people use the essence extracted from the roots to expel the placenta after birth and to relieve menstrual pains.

Edible

The petioles and flower stalks are eaten raw by the indigenous people of southern Africa. In South America, the native people eat the leaf stalks raw or cooked, similar to rhubarb.

Personality

Family

Gunneraceae

Flower colour

Pink, Red

Scent

None

Problems

Generally not affected by pests and diseases.

Companion plants

Plant along side marsh plants and water lovers.

Credits

profile iconGunnera perpensa
by Renè Glen, KwaZulu-Natal Herbarium, December 2005 (Copyright South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa)
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Knowledge and advice

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