Rheum rhaponticum

Botanical Name :  Rheum rhaponticum
Family: Polygonaceae
Genus: Rheum
Species: R. rhaponticum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Synonyms: Garden Rhubarb. Bastard Rhubarb. Sweet Round-leaved Dock.

Common Names :False rhubarb, Rhapontic rhubarb or Rhapontic

Habitat :  Rheum rhaponticum is native to Europe to E. Asia – Siberia.It grows on wet mountain rocks in Europe.

Description:
Rheum rhaponticum is a perennial plant growing to 1.2 m (4ft).It has blunt, smooth leaves; large, thick roots, running deep into the ground, reddishbrown outside and yellow within, and stems 2 to 3 feet high, jointed and purplish. The flowers are white. It is in flower in June, and the seeds ripen in July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind.
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Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Cultivation:  
Prefers a deep, fertile, moderately heavy, humus rich, moisture retentive, well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Shade tolerant, but plants prefer a sunny position. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Hardy to at least -20°c. This species is probably a parent of the cultivated rhubarb, R. x cultorum. Plants in this genus seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus.

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Propagation: 
Seed – best sown in autumn in a shaded cold frame. The seed can also be sown in spring in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter, planting them out in the spring. Division in early spring or autumn. Divide up the rootstock with a sharp spade or knife, making sure that there is at least one growth bud on each division. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

Edible Uses:
Leaf stem  is eaten raw or cooked. An acid flavour, they are used as a fruit substitute in tarts etc. The young flower pouch, harvested before the flowers open, is said to form a dish of great delicacy.

Medicinal Uses:
Part Used: The roots of English Rhubarb are generally taken from plants from four years old and upwards. They are dug up in October, washed thoroughly and the fibres taken away. The bark of English Rhubarb is not usually removed.

Rhubarb has a long and proven history of herbal usage, its main effect being a positive and balancing effect upon the whole digestive system. It is one of the most widely used herbs in Chinese medicine. The main species used is R. palmatum. Though the chemistry varies slightly, this species is used interchangeably. Another report says that this species contains only small quantities of the medicinally active compounds and so it is only used as a mild laxative. The root is anticholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, aperient, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, diuretic, laxative, purgative, stomachic and tonic. Small doses act as an astringent tonic to the digestive system, whilst larger doses act as a mild laxative. The root is taken internally in the treatment of chronic constipation, diarrhoea, liver and gall bladder complaints, haemorrhoids, menstrual problems and skin eruptions due to an accumulation of toxins. This remedy is not prescribed for pregnant or lactating women, nor for patients with intestinal obstruction. Externally, the root is used in the treatment of burns. The roots are harvested in October from plants that are at least six years old, they are then dried for later use. A homeopathic remedy is prepared from the dried root. This is used especially in the treatment of diarrhoea in teething children.

Other Uses:
Plants are used as ground cover.

 Known Hazards : The leaves contain high concentrations of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid can lock up certain minerals (especially calcium) in the body, leading to nutritional deficiency. Cooking the plant will reduce the concentration of oxalic acid. Another report says that the leaves have the same concentration of oxalic acid in the stems as they do in the leaves and it is not the oxalic acid that makes them poisonous. It says that any toxic properties of the leaves is more likely to be due to the presence of glycosides.  People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rheum_rhaponticum
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Rheum+rhaponticum
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/r/rhubar14.html

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