River pumpkin; Gunnera perpensa
Gunnera occurs naturally in central and southern Africa, Madagascar, New Zealand, Tasmania, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hawaii, Mexico, Central and South America.
G. perpensa is widespread in tropical Africa from Sudan, Ethiopia, Zaire, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambiqu , extending along the central and eastern areas of southern Africa down to the Western Cape , including Swaziland and Lesotho . It has not been recorded in the Northern Cape Province, Namibia and Botswana (Bergman et al. 1992; Mendes 1978).
It is an obligate wetland plant that grows in shallow water around the edge of pools in marshy areas or along streams. It cannot tolerate frost and even when growing in warm protective areas it will die back for the coldest months of the year.
In South Africa, a decoction of the roots of Gunnera perpensa is used to expel the placenta after birth or to relieve menstrual pains (Ngwenya et al. 2003; Van Wyk & Gericke 2000; Von Ahlenfeldt et al. 2003.
According to Fox & Norwood Young (1982) the Sothos, Fingos, Xhosas and Zulus eat the petioles and flower stalks raw. The petioles have a bitter taste unless the fibrous vascular bundles and the outer covering are removed.