Tibet has discovered a huge, 12 foot tall begonia plant with a stem similar to an arm.

The plant was discovered in China last year by researchers. They have been called Begonia giganticaulis.   

Staff at Chenshan Herbarium, Shanghai have applied for Guinness World Records for the specimen of B. giganticaulis. 

Despite only just being classified, its conservation status should be assigned to ‘endangered’, according to researchers, due to its scarcity. 

Many varieties of begonia can grow in shade or sun, so they are a good choice for hanging baskets. 

Dr Daike Tian, a researcher at the Shanghai Chenshan Plant Science Research Center, with an individual Begonia giganticaulis plant

Dr Daike Tian, a researcher at the Shanghai Chenshan Plant Science Research Center, with an individual Begonia giganticaulis plant

The impressive main stem base of Begonia giganticaulis with a clenched human fist for comparison

Begonia giganticaulis main stem, compared with an unclenched fist.


Begonia has over 21,000 species.

There are many plants that have vibrant flowers, both in the subtropics as well. These plants can be grown indoors or outdoors as pot plants.

The most prominent characteristics are the four-coloured Tepals which (petals, sepals and petals together in one pair) and three wings that attach to the ovaries of female flowers.

The flower colours include pink, red and yellow as well as white. Below the ovary is the same color. Alternate, often sloping leaves can be different in their shape and colours on various forms. 

In 2020, Dr Daike Tian (Chinese Academy of Sciences), discovered the specimen. Along with five others, Dr Tian co-authored a paper about the discovery. 

The paper states that “The particular epithet refers (very high and thick stem) to the size of the new species which is Asia’s tallest begonia.” 

Additional populations could be found if more surveys in the China-India border area are done. It should, however, be classified as Endangered based upon current data According to IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.

To date, this plant is the tallest begonia recorded in the whole of Asia, but not the world, according to Dr Tian. 

Another species in Africa – Begonia baccata, which reaches up to 13 feet (4 metres) in height – is the world tallest, he told MailOnline. 

Begonia has over 21,000 species. 

Since most begonias are small weeds, a begonia taller than a human is a very unusual sight, so the newly-discovered species is one of the few exceptions. 

This discovery is a result of a 2019 field survey by Dr Tian and his colleagues on wild begonias from Tibet in China. 

On September 10, 2020, when Dr Tian saw a huge begonia in full bloom during surveys in the county of Mêdog, he became ‘instantly excited’, and after checking its flowers, he was confident it represented a new species 

The research team measures the height of a B. giganticaulis individual at its collection site. To measure it correctly, Dr Tian (right) had to ask the driver to stand on top of their vehicle

At the collection site, the research team measured B. hugeulis’s height. Dr Tian (right), had to get the driver to sit on top of his vehicle in order to accurately measure it.

Pictured is a specimen of B. giganticaulis at the first Chinese begonia show in Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden

Here is an example of B. hugetyliaulis taken at Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden’s first Chinese begonia display

From a small population with a few dozens of individuals, Dr Tian collected two of the tallest ones to measure them and prepare specimens for further study.

It was nearly 12 feet tall (3.6 meters) high, with the largest part of its ground stem measuring close to 4.7 inches (12cm) diameter. 

For Dr Tian to accurately measure the car on-site, he had to get the driver to sit on the top.

Dr Tian was then required to divide each of the four parts in order for them to be transported back to Shanghai. 

Male inflorescence (the complete flower head of a plant including stems, stalks, bracts, and flowers) of B. giganticaulis

B. giganticaulis male inflorescence is the complete flower head, including stalks and bracts. 

A B. giganticaulis plant is cut up for easier transportation, with leaves at the top and stem at the bottom

B. giganticaulis plants are cut for easy transportation. Leaves at the top, and stem at bottom. 

One of them was smaller and dried in a herbaria. The other one was mounted on large boards. The specimen dried at this height was 10.1 feet (3.0 meters) in length, and the branch span measured 8.2 feet (2.5 meters). 

The exhibit was displayed at the Chinese begonia exhibition in Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden, October 2020. Its enormous size shocked many visitors.

B. giganticaulis is found growing on slopes that run under forest along streams, at an elevation of anywhere from 1,476 to 4,533 feet (450 to 1340 metres).  

Its distribution is limited in south Tibet. According to IUCN Red List, this was why it was designated ‘endangered.

B. giganticaulis has been described in a paper that was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys. 


Researchers reported in 2016 that strikingly blue Begonias may mark a new step in the evolutionary process of plant evolution.

Blue colour is a result of super-efficient photosynthesis, which allows them to make use of light that other plants cannot.  

Although there are more than 2,000 begonia species, scientists have been baffled by the biological significance of the brightly colored sheen for many decades.

Researchers said that the sheen develops in leaves when they are exposed to dark light, and slowly fades in brighter conditions.

The flowers use their unusual leaves to harness what little light there is.

Nature Plants published the study. It discredits a popular theory that the plant was meant to discourage predators.

“The true novelty in what the begonia does is to combine the light harvesting mechanism and the photonic structures – light can both be structurally manipulated as well as harvested with high levels quantum efficiency within one material,” said Dr Heather Whitney, Bristol University.

“I’m not a physicist, we started this work from the biology side. But my photonics colleagues tell me that this is incredibly novel and could open up new possibilities if it can be replicated.”

Photonics is a form of nanotechnology that allows plants to build structures within their leaves in order to harvest sunlight.

‘We discovered under the microscope, individual chloroplasts in these leaves reflected blue light brightly, almost like a mirror,’ said Matt Jacobs, a PhD student at Bristol University.

The begonias’ blue chloroplasts were examined in greater detail using an electron microscope technique. This is due to the brilliant blue iridescent colouration.

The inner structure of the hair was organized into uniform layers that were only 100 nanometres thick, or 1,000 times as wide as human hair.

With sunlight absorbing membranes (thylakoids), chloroplasts convert the sun’s energy into chemical energy. The light then becomes energy for plants. Large, variable-sized stacks are formed by thylakoids. 

The flowers are loved for their resilience to indoor conditions.

Many begonias are found under tropical trees, so the sunlight reaching the ground might be only a small fraction of the one at the top. These plants need every bit of light to survive.

Begonia pavonina, which is located under thick canopy of tropical rainforests in Malaysia, was chosen by researchers. The unusual chloroplasts (or iridoplasts) in the surface layers of its leaves give it iridescent blue foliage.

The leaves have blue iridescence because they contain three- to four thylakoids, placed in unison.

These structures look very much like the miniature lasers used for controlling light flow.

Malaysian forests have a small amount of sunlight that can reach the plants’ leaves. It is mostly the red-green end of the spectrum.

The iridoplasts focus these wavelengths on the plant’s photosynthesis apparatus, increasing its efficiency by five to ten percent. 

Researchers believe that the unique plant design, which was developed by evolution, could be applied to other plants in order to increase crop yields and/or to create better electronic devices.