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Toxic parts

The leaves contain high concentrations of oxalic acid[1][2]. 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[3]. 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[4].

Edible uses


Leaf stem - raw or cooked[5][6][7][8][9]. An acid taste, it is used as a fruit substitute in spring, usually stewed with sugar and used in pies, jams etc[10]. The juice strained from stewed rhubarb can add colour and flavour to a fruit punch[10]. It is best not to eat large quantities of the stems because of their oxalic acid content - see the notes above on toxicity.

Immature flowers - cooked and used like cauliflower[10].

One report says that the plant contains 0.7% rutin[11]. It does not specify which part of the plant, though it is likely to be the leaves[K].

Unknown part


Material uses

The leaves can be simmered in hot water to make an insecticide.

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

The roots of many members of this genus are used medicinally. Whilst R. palmatum is the main species used in China, we have a report that this species (which has probably been derived from it through cultivation) is used in Korea[12]. The uses of R. palmatum are as follows:-

Chinese rhubarb, called Da Huang in China, 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[4]. It has a safe and gentle action, safe even for children to use[13]. The plant is also part of a North American formula called essiac which is a popular treatment for cancer. Its effectiveness has never been reliably proven or disproven since controlled studies have not been carried out. The other herbs included in the formula are Arctium lappa, Ulmus rubra and Rumex acetosella[13]. The root is anticholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, aperient, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, diuretic, laxative, purgative, stomachic and tonic[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][4]. The roots contain anthraquinones, which have a purgative effect, and also tannins and bitters, which have an opposite astringent effect[21]. When taken in small doses, it acts as an astringent tonic to the digestive system, whilst larger doses act as a mild laxative[22][21]. 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[4]. This remedy is not prescribed for pregnant or lactating women, nor for patients with intestinal obstruction[4]. Externally, the root is used in the treatment of burns[4]. The roots are harvested in October from plants that are at least six years old, they are then dried for later use[14].

A homeopathic remedy is prepared from the dried root[22]. This is used especially in the treatment of diarrhoea in teething children[22].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - best sown in autumn in a shaded cold frame[9]. 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. This species is a hybrid and will not necessarily breed true to type from seed. However, this does give the opportunity to look for superior plants from amongst the seedlings. Division in early spring or autumn[5][23]. 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.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Rheum x cultorum. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


A very easily grown plant, tolerant of considerable neglect, it prefers a deep, fertile, moderately heavy, humus rich, moisture retentive, well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade[9][24]. It succeeds in most soils provided the drainage is good[9] and will grow in the dappled shade of trees so long as there is sufficient side light[K]. It grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates acid conditions but prefers a pH in the range 6.5 to 7[9].

Plants are very cold hardy, tolerating temperatures down to at least -20°c[9]. The plant does not like hot summers, however, and is likely to die in warmer climates[24]. Rhubarb is a long-lived and almost indestructible perennial plant[24]. It is often cultivated for its edible leaf stems, there are many named varieties[25][10]. Most cultivars produce edible stems from spring to early summer, though 'Glaskin's Perpetual' can be harvested throughout the summer. By digging up the roots in the autumn and exposing them to frost, earlier growth will be initiated. These roots can then be transferred to a cold frame or other protected area where they will produce their edible stems in late winter. It is also possible to produce earlier crops outdoors by covering the plants with a layer of straw and an upturned bucket. This species is probably of hybrid origin, R. rhaponticum x R. palmatum[9]. It hybridizes freely with other members of the genus[9].

Plants in this genus seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[26].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Rheum x cultorum. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Rheum x cultorum.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Rheum x cultorum
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type


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    2. ? Cooper. M. and Johnson. A. Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man. HMSO ISBN 0112425291 (1984-00-00)
    3. ? Brouk. B. Plants Consumed by Man. Academic Press ISBN 0-12-136450-x (1975-00-00)
    4. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
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    11. ? 11.011.1 Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. (1986-00-00)
    12. ? 12.012.1 Medicinal Plants in the Republic of Korea World Health Organisation, Manila ISBN 92 9061 120 0 (1998-00-00)
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    14. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    15. ? 15.015.1 Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (1984-00-00)
    16. ? 16.016.1 Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-37216-2 (1981-00-00)
    17. ? 17.017.1 Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    18. ? 18.018.1 Zhang Jingwei. Alpine Plants of China. Gordon & Breach. New York. ISBN 0-677-60190-5 (1982-00-00)
    19. ? 19.019.1 Hill. A. F. Economic Botany. The Maple Press (1952-00-00)
    20. ? 20.020.1 Yeung. Him-Che. Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas. Institute of Chinese Medicine, Los Angeles (1985-00-00)
    21. ? Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs Pan Books Ltd. London. ISBN 0-330-30725-8 (1990-00-00)
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    24. ? Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Vegetables Macmillan Reference Books, London. ISBN 0 333 62640 0 (1995-00-00)
    25. ? 25.025.1 Komarov. V. L. Flora of the USSR. Israel Program for Scientific Translation (1968-00-00)
    26. ? Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (1990-00-00)