Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Giant rhubarb and Highland Games

Posted on by royvickery |

023The Secret Garden garden centre in Crystal Palace, London Borough of Croydon, offers plants identified as Gunnera manicata (giant rhubarb) with a label stating:

‘The plant is also found on the Isle of Arran in Scotland where it is picked and used as umbrellas by locals traditionally on the night after the highland games.’

A quick search reveals that this sentence is taken from Wikipedia’s entry on Gunnera manicata.

While the large leaves of Gunnera could be used as umbrellas, why are they particularly used as such ‘on the night after the highland games’?


 Sheila Gilmore,  Secretary of the Brodrick (Arran) Highland Games, writes:  ‘I know the plant and it does grow here in various locations, but this is the first time I’ve heard of it relating specifically to the Highland Games!  This may indeed be a joke refering to the celebrations that are undertaken on the day of the Games.  The Games are usually great weather-wise (8 August this year), so hopefully no plants will need to be cut for umbrellas’ [2 & 3 June 2015].

According to the label of a Gunnera plant at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew:  ‘In its native Chile, people pick a leaf to use as an umbrella’ [18 September 2015].

Any further comments would be much appreciated; please send them to

Image: cultivated, Verulamium Park, St Albans, Hertfordshire; May 2015.

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