Giant rhubarb

Gunnera tinctoria


Photo credit: ©RPS group Plc
Gunnera tinctoria

  • It is found along coastal cliffs, waterways, roadsides, wet meadows and derelict gardens and fields.

Widely Spread Species:
  • Under Article 19 of Invasive Alien Species Regulation (1143/2014) G. tinctoria has been identified as a Widely Spread Species in Northern Ireland and as such, management measures have been put in place to minimise its impacts.

  • G. tinctoria or giant rhubarb is not related to rhubarb, but as its name implies it is similar in appearance. This is a much larger plant with thorny leaves and stems. This is a large herbaceous plant that forms dense colonies and shades out other plants. This plant is most conspicuous in spring and summer when it can grow up to 2 m tall with large ‘umbrella’ shaped leaves that arise from sturdy stalks or petioles. G. tinctoria over winters as large buds accumulating on the rhizomes (roots) above the surface, while the leaves die back, exposing these buds.

Origin and Distribution:
  • Native to South America but is now invasive in Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia.

  • G. tinctoria reduces the biodiversity value of infested sites.
  • It can lead to the local extinction of some species with the formation of almost monospecific stands of G. tinctoria.
  • Elsewhere, this species has also caused problems by blocking drainage ditches and also access ways for people.

How did it get here?
  • The plant arrived in Ireland as an ornamental plant for gardens.

Is it found in Ireland or Northern Ireland?
  • It is found both in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
  • The species is currently considered invasive on the west coast of Ireland, although it is also found on the east coast to date it is not considered invasive. It is considered to be having a significant impact on Achill Island, County Mayo, where is has spread throughout.
  • More information can be seen on NBDC and NBN Atlas NI.

You can help by reporting any sightings:

Static Distribution Map as of December 2019 - Courtesy of CEDaR 

Prevent Spread
  • Promote native species and biodiversity - use alternative, native plants.
  • Know what you are buying/growing and source native Irish seed and plants.
  • Do not swap plants and cuttings.
  • Clean plants before adding to ponds (dispose of water away from water courses). Follow control advice and watch out for hitchhikers - inspect new imported purchases for invasive pest and pathogens.
  • Never collect plants from the wild.
  • Safe disposal of plant material and growing media.
  • Record all sightings.

Current Legislative Position (Listed on 03 August 2017) 
  • This species must not intentionally be brought into the Union; kept; bred; transported to, from or within the United Kingdom, unless for the transportation to facilities in the context of eradication; placed on the market; used or exchanged; permitted to reproduce, grown or cultivated; or released into the environment. 
For further queries, you can contact the Non Native Invasive Species Team in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency on 028 9056 9558.

Species Related Files:

Invasive Species Ireland

Invasive Species Ireland