Tuesday, October 8, 2013
The flowers of Aristolochia elegans are the most stunning aspect of this plant, but it also has many other interesting features. The plant is a vine that climbs by twining around any available support, reaching a height of 10 to 15 feet.
The leaves are broad and somewhat heart-shaped, approximately 3 inches across, but the size varies greatly. Where the petiole joins the stem, there is a distinctive small leaf-like appendage.
The foliage is a favored food of polydamas swallowtail butterfly larvae. Some sources claim it is toxic to pipevine swallowtails, but others claim it is not. The evidence appears mostly anecdotal and I am unable to find any scientific research to confirm either way.
This species is also sometimes known as Dutchman's pipe, calico flower, and pipe vine. The name pipe vine arises from the appearance of the flower buds. With a little imagination you can visualize the similarity to an old-fashioned Dutch tobacco pipe.
Flowering occurs during summer and fall when the plant is actively growing. Individual flowers are 3-4 inches long.
Pollinated flowers develop a cylindrical seed pod that splits open when mature, becoming an unusual basket holding the seeds that are then scattered as the basket blows in the wind.
The seeds can be quite prolific and this species is considered potentially invasive in Florida. In the garden it can be easily controlled by snipping off the green seed pods before they mature.
Aristolochia elegans is synonymous with A. littoralis and is native to South America. It is recommended for USDA Zones 8-10, being evergreen in the more tropical climes and perennial in Zone 8. They perform best in part sun, part shade.
Buy seeds of Aristolochia elegans