By Larry Hodgson
Begonias are popular garden and house plants. With more than 2,000 species found in tropical to subtropical climates—and even a few temperate ones!—all over the world, it offers a huge range of both foliage and flowering plants for home gardens. New species are discovered every year, but almost all are small plants, ones you could easily fit into a flowerpot or a bed of annuals. Only a few are even knee-high. And then there is Begonia gigantica: the giant begonia.
This treelike species was discovered only in September 2020 in Tibet by Dr. Daike Tian and his colleagues during a field survey of wild begonias.
They found a huge begonia up to 3.6 m (12 feet) tall, with a stem 12 cm (4 ½ in) in diameter, the size of a human fist as the photo above shows. It grew sparsely on forested slopes along streams in the county of Mêdog at elevations of 450–1400 m. Already rare in the wild, it has been proposed as a species at risk of extinction and would thus require protection according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The staff of Chenshan Herbarium is applying for a Guinness World Record for this begonia, certainly the tallest in Asia. However, the world’s tallest begonia might still be B. parviflora, from South America. Some specimens of that species have reached over 4 m (13 ft) in height.
There is no news of when, if ever, seeds of B. gigantica might be available so gardeners could try growing it themselves. Seeds of B. parviflora, however, are sold by several online sources.