Thursday, July 29, 2010

bizarre plants - aristolochia

Two years ago, we bought a Dutchman's Pipe Vine, or Aristolochia at the USF Botanical Gardens.  I'd admired the large vine they had climbing the trellis at the entrance to the plant sale area.  I'd seen another one at Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, as part of the butterfly garden.  The flowers were so elegantly strange that I wanted one.  Often, when I visit these gardens, I think about just pinching a bit of this or that, and rooting it when I get home.  I was a good garden visitor, and bought a plant instead.  

Ours struggled the first year.  Then we had our killer freeze this last winter and I thought it was a goner.  It came back and has rewarded us with its first flowers.  I expected them to stink, like the carrion flower we have, but they smell very much like lemons.  But, if you crush the leaves...stink-o-rama.  The plant is larval food for the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly.  Chemicals from the pipevine plants become concentrated in the bodies of caterpillars and butterflies and make them distasteful to birds and other predators, which is why some other butterfly species like the the all-black female Tiger Swallowtail mimic the Pipevine Swallowtail.  A great pictorial reference book for butterflies of Florida is Florida's Fabulous Butterflies.  Jimi & Leon gave me a copy for my birthday.  It includes information about their larval food and host plants (butterflies, not Jimi & Leon).

The flowers of the Pipevine last only a couple of days, and develop rapidly from tiny buds.  A healthy vine can cover a trellis or fence very quickly with sufficient rain.  They don't like to be kept too wet.  They are said to root easily from cuttings, so I'm taking a few and rooting them for my coworker, Tom, who said he'd trade an Amazon Lily for one.  

From Garden
From Garden
From Garden

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great trade. Good Luck!