Plant of the Week ~ Rheum rhabarbarum (Common Rhubarb)

Botanical illustration of Rheum rhabarbarum by Hillary Parker
Botanical illustration of Rheum rhabarbarum by Hillary Parker. Source: Botanical Artistry

This week we take a look at plant many may be familiar with ~ Rheum rhabarbarum (Common Rhubarb). Rhubarb is a herbaceous perennial and very easy to identify when in leaf with its huge leaves and reddish leaf stalks. Flowering in summer, rhubarb can easily grow over 1.5 metres in height and spread, and even larger depending on the species. Though you may be aware that the stalks are edible, let’s take a look at what else rhubarb has to offer.

Cultivation & Care

New growth of Rheum rhabarbarum emerging after winter
New growth of Rheum rhabarbarum emerging after winter

Though rhubarb prefers full sun it will tolerate light shade, it’s large leaves actually make it a great ground cover plant as it blocks the light from weeds. As for soil, rhubarb is tolerant of most soils, so long as they are close to neutral pH (6.1 – 7.0), medium moisture is preferred.

To prolong the production of leaves, be sure to remove the flower stalks when they start to form. When harvesting, never take more than a third of the stalks as this can distress the plant. Also, be sure to harvest the mature stalks first then harvest the younger ones as they reach maturity weeks later.

Edible Uses

Harvest Rheum rhabarbarum stalks. Remember, do not eat the leaves!
Harvest Rheum rhabarbarum stalks. Remember, do not eat the leaves!

Compassionate Roots can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants.  Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally and when in doubt about eating a plant you have not eaten before.

  • Leaf stalks ~ Can be eaten raw or cooked. Very tart in flavour.
  • Flower buds ~ These can be cooked and have a similar texture to cauliflower, with a tarty twist.
  • Eat in moderation as rhubarb contains high amounts of oxalic acid, which can inhibit calcium absorption. So long as you aren’t consuming large amounts of rhubarb on a daily basis, you should be fine.

Other Uses

  • Biomass ~ The leaves accumulate a large amount of nutrients, which makes them great for adding to compost heaps and bins.
  • Pioneer species ~ Another great plant that improves an area ready for other species of plants to settle in later.
  • Dye plant ~ The leaves, stalks, and roots of some species can be used to produce yellow and red dyes.
  • Dynamic accumulator ~ Rhubarb is great at mining for minerals deep in the soil and storing them in the leaves for later use either as a mulch or added to composting areas.

Compassionate Roots can help you create a vibrant wildlife garden for you and your family to enjoy all year round. Contact us for more information.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s