Rheum palmatum var tanguticum
Rheum palmatum var tanguticum (Polygonaceae) A most dramatic plant with huge rhubarb leaves that unfurl maroon, fading mid green. This is a particularly robust form of R.palmatum with possibly even bigger, more deeply lobed leaves. Whilst the coloured young leaves are not as dramatic as the form ‘Atrosanguineum’, they do continue to appear well into the season. The flowers are creamy white in a large stiffy btranched spik, 7 plus feet high. Best grown in a damp site where the roots can find water.
The genus name ‘Rheum’ could have two origins. some people think it is from ‘Rha’, the ancient name for the Volga, on whose banks it grows freely and the greek ‘barbaros’=foreign. ie the strange plant from across the Volga. Others think it may be from the Greek ‘rheo’ – to flow – in reference to the purgative properties of the roots.
It is still grown in some parts of China for its medicinal properties. The dried rhizomes are decocted with orange and the bark of Magnolia officinalis to form treatments for various intestinal ailments. It has been in use in Chinese medicine for at least 4000 years. Rheum palmatum doesn’t grow sufficiently well in Britain for commercial growth for medicinal use. However, Rheum officianlis is grown on a small scale in its place. The garden Rhubarb, Rheum rhaponticum has limited medicinal use.
First known in Europe in 1732 when a Dutch Physician, Boerhave, purchased seed from a Tartarian rhubarb dealer. These produced two distinctive plants, one of which turned out to be Turkey rhubarb (Rheum palmatum), the other Garden rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum).
Rheum palmatum ‘Atrosanguineum’ – Turkey rhubarb, Chinese rhubarb