Rheum compactum L. s.l. - Compact rhubarb

Taxonomic position.

Family Polygonaceae Juss., genus Rheum L.


Rheum altaicum Losinsk., R.orientale Losinsk.

Morphology and biology.

Perennial herbaceous plant. The stem is erect, up to 120 cm tall, grooved, hollow. The root is strongly incrassate. Root leaves are assembled in a rosette. Petioles of the root leaves are long and fleshy. Leaf blades, up to 60 cm in width, are roundish-ovate, almost round, oval-triangular, broadly cordate at the base, flat or slightly undulated along the edge, with a rounded or obtuse-angled tip, bare above, covered with villi or bristly hairs below. Stem leaves are not numerous, with short petioles, sessile, smaller in size, all with large, dark, fulvous ocreae. The inflorescence is a broad, short, dense, congested panicle, narrow-oval, oval or almost round, with numerous sprigs. Larger sprigs issue from the axils of stem leaves; at the base of the minor ones, there are only small, filmy ocreae. Pedicels have an incrassate articulation positioned higher than the middle of the pedicel. The perianth is whitish, consisting of 4 tepals. Fruits are 6-9 mm long, dark brown, with reddish brown wings. The achene is brown, transversely wrinkled, glossy.
Entomophilous. Ornito- and zoochore. Blossoms in May; bears fruit in July/August. 2n = 22, 44.


Occurs in mountainous areas of Western and Eastern Siberia, Kazakhstan (Saur, Tarbagatai), the Far East (Sikhote Alin, shores of the Sea of Okhotsk, Kamchatka Peninsula), Mongolia, and China (north).


Mesophyte. Inhabits the mountainous forest belt and the alpine zone at elecvations of 500-2,300 m. Grows in thin larch-cedar and cedar forests, in shrubby thickets, among rocks, in stony places, along stony steppes, along sandy-pebbly and stony brooks, and in river valleys.

Utilization and economic value.

Food (vegetable) and medicinal. Edible parts are juicy and fleshy petioles. Early in spring, fresh berries and fruits and are used to prepare kissels, stewed drinks and filling of pies. Rhubarb petioles may serve as raw material for the canning industry. This species is widely utilized in breeding practices. The over-ground part contains oxalic, malic, citric and ascorbic acids; the roots contain tanning agents.


Brezhnev D.D., Korovina O.N. 1981. Wild relatives of cultivated plants in the flora of the USSR. Leningrad: Kolos, pp. 120-121. (in Russian).
Ivanova K.V. 1988. Genus Rheum L. - Rhubarb. Cultivated Flora of the USSR. Vol. 12. Leaf vegetable plants. Leningrad: Agropromizdat, pp. 30-70. (in Russian).
Malyshev L.I., Krasnoborov I.M., eds. 1992. Flora of Siberia. Vol. 5. Salicaceae - Amaranthaceae. Novosibirsk: Nauka, p. 106. (in Russian).
Schmidt V.M., ed. 1990. Areas of distribution of medicinal plants and their relatives in the USSR (Atlas). Leningrad: Leningrad University Publishers, 2nd edition (revised), p. 40. (in Russian).

© I.G. Chukhina


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