Rawanbuki, a variety of Japanese butterbur (Petasites japonicus subsp. giganteus), grow naturally along the Rawan River, Hokkaido, northern Japan. Most plants reach 2–3 m in height and 10 cm in diameter in 2 months and are much larger than those grown along other rivers. We examined the hypothesis that nutrients exported from upland streams enhance the growth of the Rawanbuki. Nutrient concentrations, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and base cations, in the Rawan River were much higher than those in rivers of adjacent watersheds. High nutrient concentrations and moisture contents were found in soil along the Rawan River and a significant relationship was found between physicochemical soil conditions and aboveground biomass of butterburs. This indicates that extremely large Rawanbuki plants could be caused by these high nutrient concentrations and moisture contents in the soils. A manipulation experiment showed that fertilization simulated the growth environment along the Rawan River and enhanced the stem height and stem diameter of butterburs. This study concluded that the extremely large butterburs are caused by a large amount of nutrients exported from upland areas. These results are the first demonstration of the role of stream water nutrients in enlarging agricultural crops.
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