Holy Bolting Rhubarb


We planted this rhubarb plant at the end of last summer and were thrilled at how rapidly it was growing and filling out this Spring.  Then Cory noticed an odd pinkish knot in the middle of it.  I thought might be just a bundle of leaves that had not yet unfurled, but as the strange mass continued to rise up and open, it became clear that it was kind of an odd flower.

I’d never seen rhubarb do this before, and I wasn’t sure what, if anything, to do about it, so I did a little research.  According to an article written by a horticulturist at Purdue University, rhubarb flowers should be trimmed off as soon as they appear in order to avoid their sapping vital energy that the plant could otherwise use to produce more stalks and foliage.  Though a flower left to seed will produce offspring, those child plants are generally of a less desirable nature than their parent, so it seems that there’s really no benefit to leaving the flower alone.

But why did our rhubarb flower in the first place?  The same article suggests that there are a number of factors that might contribute to bolting (a.k.a. flowering), which include the specific cultivar, poor soil nutrition, extreme heat, etc.  Rhubarb being a lover of moistish, temperate environments, it seems likely in our case that the stress of this uncommonly dry Spring triggered the reproductive response.  Or maybe she’s just a bolter by nature.  Whatever the case, I have some trimming to do.