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Botany Photo of the Day
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Petasites japonicus var. giganteus

Petasites japonicus var. giganteus

Credit to “Weekend Gardener” of Coquitlam, British Columbia for this image of a “man-eating plant” (submitted via the BPotD Submissions Forum). Kind thanks!

As promised in this BPotD entry for the Asian Garden, here is another photograph of Petasites japonicus var. giganteus, or Japanese butterbur. As alluded to by Weekend Gardener in the written accompaniment to his submission, this plant can be an aggressive grower given the right conditions. I'm hesitant to attach the moniker “invasive” to it (like so many others have on the web), primarily because its ability to disperse is limited. That being said, it may indeed be biologically invasive in some areas, so caution should be exercised if you are considering growing it.

The size and structure of the leaves hint at the habitat ecology of the plant – moist soils in a shady forest. Large leaf surface area typically equates with a high rate of water loss, hence the need for moist soils. The large leaf surface area is also a mechanism for capturing as much available light as possible, a strategy typical of growing in shady conditions. The leaf itself is relatively thin compared with the sturdy similarly-sized leaves of some Gunnera. When considered in tandem with the surface area of the leaf, thin large leaves imply the plant cannot be exposed to high winds. Accordingly, forests offer protection from any potential mechanical damage or dessication caused by air movement.

Small note on the taxonomy – some excellent references suggest variety giganteus, while others use subspecies giganteus. I've used variety, but if anyone wants to convince me otherwise, I'd definitely listen to any argument.

Photography resource link: The work of Ladislav Kamarád, in particular the photographs from South America: Patagonia and Bolivia.

20 Comments

I do wish the Zones in which these plants are hardy would be included in the write-up.

I am discovering your site and I hope I'll enjoy it

Hello and welcome melliug!

Bruce: I'm hitting the wall at what I can reasonably(?) provide of my own time for each entry. Any new additional bit of information would mean I'd have to drop something else.

Fortunately, this format allows anyone to go in and add additional information if they so choose via the comments. I'd welcome it. If someone wanted to research the plants before they were posted, I could provide what is upcoming about 50% of the time.

In any case, to answer your question for this plant: a search on Google for “Petasites japonicus” zone.

Petasites japonicus var. giganteus is Z5 and native to Japan.

Source - The New RHS Dictionary, Index of Garden Plants, Mark Griffiths

Hey Bruce, this isn't a landscaping/gardening website. Look it up! Many plants are Northwest natives or plants which thrive in the various climate zones of this diverse region. The USDA (http://plants.usda.gov/) has a great database of North American natives with lots of details including hardiness info. Oregon State (http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/) also has a pretty decent website of particular interest to northwest gardeners.

Keep up the great work Daniel!!!

Recently I read that Butterbur leaves are useful in allergic rhinitis and has effect equivalent to Cetrizine. As I am suffering from the same, I would like to know the Indian name of Butterbur which I can use as remedy for allergic rhinitis.

I suspect this is the paper you are referencing: Schapowal, A. 2002. Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis. British Medical Journal. 324:144-146. I don't know about the Indian name, though.

I am aware that coltsfoot, a name used to describe other petasites plants, has medicinal value, in the way of smoking the dried leaves for a bad cough, and also has lung healing qualities in general. I have some of the giganteus growing, and am tempted to try it, but I'm interested in opinions on the coltsfoot connection

I am up in north, & have been asked to grow this, does anyone know do deer eat it. I don't believe deer eat regular colts foot.

I live in SE Connecticut and the plants do very well.
They tolerate the cold and were already breaking through the ground at the end of February.
The deer eat just about everything else in our yard but have not touched these.

I think this is the same thing I am growing here in Dayton, Ohio ... or some relative of it. I am on the cusp of zone 5/6. This last winter was closer to a true zone 5 and it is showing itself with tiny leaves at this point but it won't be long until they reach their small tractor seat size! After two years in the ground I would not call it invasive nor would I use the word reticent to describe it!
Cheers,
J. Heilman

this is growing in katonah ny. (north of ny, near a lake, zone 6a) will wilt in sun, very moist in area it is growing in, deer will not touch it. never see any of the flowers which come before leaves. it is unkillable but has not spread invasively.

We see petasites japonicus more and more in the Montreal area. While bicycling one hour north of here in the Lower Laurentians, I saw a very large patch growing by the road. Means it can survive -30C temperature. As long as its rootstaock is protected by a snow cover, I suppose.

FYI: Know that petasites (and coltsfoot aka tussilago farfara) all contain Pyrolizidine alkaloids , carcinogenic components- not so good in large and prolonged quantities or if your liver is compromised.

I'm about 5 years too late but as another poster points out, this plant is pretty hardy.

Japanese butterbur hardy in Zone 5a (Southern Ontario) where I'm growing it.

I'd agree with the writer that this probably shouldn't be consider 'invasive', maybe more of an expansionist. It grows large roots, about an inch thick that it uses to spread. I don't think it seeds or anything. So if you want to stop it from expanding, it's more just the difficult task of chopping out the inch thick roots, this can be a far amount of work if you don't have the right tools. You'd likely have to do that once or twice a year.

I have had this fabulous plant in my yard for several years now. I live in Minnesota zone 4. I do have to keep it in check every year with donations to friends with large spaces. It has been a great conversation piece.

Oh God. I planted this when it was tiny, I thought it was sweet. What a thug. It is trying to take over my whole property and my life. This is a nightmare unless it is tightly contained.

I'm in Z5/northwestern tip of NJ. Sharon, I feel your pain. I planted one little rootlet 8 or 9 years ago that behaved itself for a few years. Now? It has literally eaten the stream next to which it was planted. It's galloped up a hill of dry sand and shale (skree?)in full sun and is encroaching on my driveway. I've chopped it, sprayed it with glyphosphate concentrate, burned it, kept it weed-whacked to ground level for two years running and every spring, TA-DA!! It's like the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. No one should ever allow this plant on their property.

We bought property on a lake 8 years ago and built our home there. Each year our Japanese Butterbur has "expanded" beautifully. The plant was already here, so not sure how it got to the property unless a little birdie or butterfly made it happen. (I did read that it is not usual for pollination to occur, however) This is the first year I've researched to find out the name of this plant. I guess we were lucky it was already growing in an area full of peat and far enough from the house that it has become a beautiful garden spot in our yard. We have put birdhouses on posts at different heights and they look fantastic scattered within the plants! We are letting it take over part of our grass because we love it so much! We are in Mid Michigan.

I have been trying to differentiate between the variety 'giganteus' and the regular variety. Also between varieties that have quite round leaves and ones that are more pointed. Recently, at the Denver Botanical Gardens i found 4 different clumps. Two clumps had definite 'white fuz' on the leaves and particularly on the stems. Their records of succession have been lost.

If you have strong knowledge about the species I would like to connect with you directly.

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