Giant Japanese Butterbur, a prehistoric looking plant in our yard.

It was mid-June 2018 when we walked around our yard for the first time, other than a quick visit months before when we make an offer on our home.  As soon as we pulled into the driveway, we could see much has changed, or should I say, popped up.  Not only did we notice the whole yard was surrounded by undulating garden beds, plants, flowers, and herbs were plentiful.  One plant that immediately caught my eye was in the far back corner of our property. I could not walk to it fast enough. I had no idea what it was.  It was similar in scale to some other foliage I have seen, but the shape of the leave was different. It looked like some of the wild ginger around other parts of the yard, but on steroids. 

giant butterbur

After reaching out to the previous owner of our home, I was told it was a Giant Butterbur. From late spring to late fall, the Giant Butterbur plant took center stage in our back yard.

The Giant Butterbur Plant - Spring 2019

I was anxious to see what the Giant Butterbur looked like before its maturity and it didn’t take long to find out. Once the ground began to thaw from our long winter, small green buds started pushing through the soil and quickly became covered in small green flowers that soon turned white.

giant butterbur flower

Like magic, well for me anyway, the flower heads were replaced by a single leaf that grew quickly on long leggy stems.


Below: As a reference for the size of this leaf, I wear a size 6.5 shoe

Giant Butterbur leaf.jpg

This year, when I posted a photo of our Giant Butterbur plant on IG and FacebookI , received numerous comments that it was a very invasive plant and that I should rip it out and plant something else. What? It was? It did not take me long to do a little research and found the information to be true. Luckily for me, our plant is in a secluded low area in the yard, that retains moisture, whereas other areas of the yard are very dry. So what I’m saying is, if I had more wet soil, spreading might be an issue, but so far (knock on wood), not for us.

When we have a run of hot dry days, the plants wilt and sometimes lay against the ground, but after a good rain or watering, they perk up once again.

As for the end of the season, I left them alone and did not cut them back simply due to the fact I did not look up how to care for them. I’m pleased to say the plant and its large stalks withered away and left only a thin layer of future compost. When spring came around, there was no evidence of there ever being there. In early spring, as soon as the ground thawed, the Giant Butterbur was one of the first plants to greet us and I couldn’t be happier.

Since I am not an expert on this plant, the following information is an excerpt from written by Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Japanese Butterbur Information Japanese butterbur is a dramatic plant with sturdy, pencil-size rhizomes, yard-long stalks and round leaves that can measure as much as 48 inches across, depending on the variety. The stalks are edible and often known as “Fuki.” Spikes of small, sweet-smelling white flowers decorate the plant in late winter, just before the leaves make an appearance in early spring. Growing Japanese Butterbur Growing Japanese butterbur is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly, as the plant spreads vigorously and, once established, is extremely difficult to eradicate. If you decide to give it a try, plant Japanese butterbur where it can spread freely without bothering you or your neighbors, or be sure it’s in an area where you can maintain control by implementing some type of root barrier. You can also control Japanese butterbur by planting it in a large container or tub (without drainage holes), then sink the container into the mud, a solution that works well around small ponds or boggy areas of your garden. Japanese butterbur prefers partial or full shade. The plant tolerates nearly any type of soil, as long as the ground is consistently wet. Be careful about locating Japanese butterbur in windy areas, as wind may damage the huge leaves.