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Rhubarb Species

Rhubarb is available in many different species. Here at The Rhubarb Compendium we are primarily concerned with common garden rhubarb, Rheum x cultorum. Below you will find a list of common, and some not so common, rhubarbs. Not all of these are suitable for making pies and tarts. Many are strictly for ornamental use.

  • Rheum acuminatum - Ornamental Rhubarb

This plant likes to grow in or near water, in summer it has red seedpods. It is disease-free and hardy all across the country (Canada). Low mounds of heavily veined leaves, rich red petioles, and upright, branched and spidery stems or red flowers to 4 feet (1.25 m). Adaptive to full sun or partial shade in rather rich, humus. Cut it hard back after flowering to rejuvenate foliage for the remaining season. Excellent autumn tones of red in full sun.

  • Rheum alexandrae - Ornamental Rhubarb

An ornamental rhubarb. Spikes of flowers rising to 3-4 feet (1-1.25 m) completely shielded by large, translucent white bracts, and in autumn, spectacular red autumn color.

  • Rheum alpinum - European Wild Rhubarb

Leaves used for wrapping cheeses, rhizomes used as pig food.

  • Rheum altaicum

 

  • Rheum australe - Himalayan rhubarb

Seven foot (2 meter) long stems have yellow flowers in late spring-summer. Red stems with large greenish red, heart-shaped leaves.

  • Rheum compactum

Perennial, typical height 50 cm (19 in) Edible parts are the Leaf stems as a rhubarb substitute.

  • Rheum coreanum

Perennial, The root is laxative and is also considered good for digestion.

  • Rheum emodi

Rheum officinale and Rheum Emodi have, to some extent, been grown also as an ornamental plant. It is also quite hardy and readily propagated.

  • Rheum kialense

A charming, diminutive species. Red-stained crinkled foliage to 15 inches (38 cm) and airy panicles of tiny greenish-red flowers. Stoloniferous (a stolon is a horizontal branch from the base of a plant that produces new plants from buds at its tip or nodes (like a strawberry does), also called a runner), it will form a dense ground cover over time.

  • Rheum nobile - Sikkim rhubarb

 

  • Rheum officinale - Chinese rhubarb, Indian rhubarb

Perennial, typical height 2 m ( 6.5 ft) E. Asia - Tibet. Hardy to USDA Zone 7. Leaf stem eaten cooked or raw, Rhizome considered medicinal.

  • Rheum palmatum - Turkey rhubarb, Chinese rhubarb, East Indian Rhubarb

Some sources say Rheum palmatum is a synonym for Rheum rhaponticum but this is not correct. The leaves of the Turkey Rhubarb are palmate and somewhat rough. The root is thick, of an oval shape, sending off long, tapering branches; externally it is brown, internally a deep yellow color. The stem is erect, round, hollow, jointed, branched towards the top, from 6 to 10 feet (2-3 m) high. This species is distinguished from our familiar garden Rhubarb by its much larger size, the shape of its leaves, with their oblong, sharpish segments, and the graceful looseness of its little panicles of greenish-white flowers. The first buds which appear in spring are yellow, not red. Perennial, typical height 2 m (6.5 ft), Leaf stem eaten raw or cooked. Superior in flavor to the common rhubarb and quite tender, has a long and proven history of herbal/medicinal usage Bold, dramatic dark purple foliage with 6 foot (2 m) long stems that bear rose-red pyramids of flowers in late spring. Several varieties of this are known: 'Atrosanguineum', 'Bowles Crimson', rubrum, tanguticum, and tanguticum 'red selection'.

  • Rheum rhaponticum, Rheum x hybridum, Rheum rhubarbarum, Rheum x cultorum - Rhubarb, Garden Rhubarb, Bastard Rhubarb, Sweet Round-Leaved Dock, English Rhubarb, Wine Plant

Strong perennial, with thick clustered roots. Similar in medicinal action to Turkey Rhubarb or Chinese Rhubarb, though milder. It is derived from Rheum palmatum, and from Rheum officinale. It has blunt, smooth leaves; large, thick roots, running deep into the ground, reddish-brown outside and yellow within, and stems 2 to 3 feet high, jointed and purplish. The flowers are white.

Rheum rhubarbarum
photo credit

  • Rheum ribes

Perennial, typical height 1.5 m. ( 4.9ft.) Leaf stem - cooked. Eaten raw by the people of Turkey and Iraq.

  • Rheum spiciforme

Perennial, typical height 30 cm. (11 in.) E. Asia - Himalayas. Leaf stem - raw or cooked. The root is used as a purgative.

  • Rheum tataricum - Tartarian rhubarb
  • Rheum tibeticum
  • Rheum undulatum

4-5 feet (1.25-1.5 m) tall, Earlier and smaller than R. rhaponticum


References:

  1. Rhubarbs, http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/r/rhubar14.html, (from Botanical.com)
  2. Untitled page, part of The Plant Tracker
  3. Guide to Plant Relationships (for food allergy and intolerance identification), http://www.purr.demon.co.uk/Food/RelatedPlantList.html
  4. Willow Pond Nursery, URL: http://www.willowpondnursery.com/index.htm
  5. Heronswood  Nursery, http://www.heronswood.com/
  6. Bailey
  7. Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), http://www.ex.ac.uk/~cnfrench/ics/cbru/monitor/reyjap.htm, (from The Cornish Biological Records Unit)

 



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