WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST LEAF?

Gunnera leaf - credit M. Stephen Griffith, Curator of Abbotsbury

If you live in the temperate regions of northern Europe then you can be forgiven for thinking that the world's largest leaf is produced by the magnificent giant ornamental rhubarb - Gunnera manicata. In its native habitat of the the Serra do Mar mountains of southeastern Brazil, the leaves can grow up to 2 metres wide and 3.4 metres long on 2 metres high stalks. As impressive as it may be, it is really the world's largest leaf? Well that all depends on how you measure it!

Raphia regalis - https://zonepost.files.wordpress.com/
If by largest you mean longest, then the world's largest leaf is the record breaking Raphia regalis whose huge leaves that can reach a record breaking 25.11 metres long by 3 metres wide. However this is not a solid leaf as they are divided and are made up of around 180 separate leaflets.

Where undivided leaves are concerned, the leaves of the Amazonian palm - Manicaria saccifera, have been measured at almost 8 metres long. However, the leaf is typically divided shallowly at the tip and so is arguable not truly entire. There are also two additional palm species contending for the world's longest undivided leaf: The first is the Big-leaf palm - Marojejya darianii, a palm native to Madagascar with a leaf up to 5 meters long that is divided just the once at the tip. The second is the Joey palm - Johannesteijsmannia altifrons, a palm native to Thailand with a leaf up to 4 meters long and is entirely undivided.

Victoria amazonica - http://www.victoria-adventure.org/
World class naturalist David Attenborough has documented that the giant arum of Borneo develops the biggest undivided leaf of all with a surface area of 34 square feet. Unfortunately accurate dimensions for the Joey palm leaf are as yet unavailable and so it is difficult to calculate its surface area to make a comparison.

Ignoring terrestrial plants for a moment, let's not forget the floating leaves of the giant Amazonian waterlily - Victoria amazonica, which have a documented diameter of up to 8 ft. This equates to a surface area of 50 square feet making it 47% larger than the leaf reported by David Attenborough.

So, which is the world's largest leaf? Well, take your pick because the jury is still out. For me it is still the Gunnera manicata, but that is just because it is the only one I can grow in the garden.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW COLOCASIA
HOW TO GROW GUNNERA MANICATA
HOW TO GROW PALM TREES FROM SEED
HOW TO PROPAGATE GUNNERA MANICATA
RAFFLESIA ARNOLDII
TETRAPANAX Papyrifer Rex
THE GIANT AMAZON WATER LILY
WHAT IS A BULB?
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST LEAF?
THE WORLD'S TALLEST MAN

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