Chiricahua Mtns 2014
Wayne's Word Index Noteworthy Plants Trivia Lemnaceae Biology 101 Botany Scenic Wildflowers Trains Spiders & Insects Search
Chiricahua Mtns Road Trip Spring 2014: Arizona Pipevine
     Home        Part 1        Part 2        Part 3        Part 4        Part 5        Part 6        Part 7        Part 8        Part 9        Part 10  
The Remarkable Arizona Pipevine (Dutchman's Pipe)

Brief Introduction To The Aristolochiaceae (Pipevine or Birthwort Family)

Why Do Some Carrion Flowers Incarcerate Insects?

In some carrion flowers the insects are lured into dark openings leading to the putrefying interior where they become trapped among the floral organs. This strategy insures cross pollination, especially when the male anthers release pollen several days after the female stigma is no longer receptive. When the imprisoned insects are allowed to leave they are given a thorough dusting of fresh pollen to be taken to a different plant. One of the classic insect-trapping carrion flowers is the European Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia clematitis), a member of the birthwort family (Aristolochiaceae). The unusual common names are derived from the curious blossoms with a shape reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes' pipe, and an old herbal remedy. Some species in this family have aromatic roots that were reputedly used as a purgative to induce labor, a questionable practice that is not recommended. The curious blossoms of some species superficially resemble a human fetus in the womb, and the plants were once thought to facilitate child birth. During medieval times, various ailments were treated with plants that resembled certain afflicted parts of the body. This practice was called the "Doctrine of Signatures," and became the basis of medical treatment for centuries to come. The striking, tubular flower of Dutchman's pipe is held upright as it emits a foul, pungent odor. Small gnats land on the vertical upper calyx surface but slip down through the floral tube and into the inflated "pipe chamber" due to slippery wax granules on the inner surface. Dense, downward-pointing hairs in the floral tube prevent the gnats from climbing out. During their incarceration the gnats receive rations of nectar. Several days later, when the anthers release pollen, the jail hairs wilt and the flower tilts horizontally, allowing the pollen-laden gnats to walk out of their prison, and into another receptive floral trap on a different plant.

Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia clematitis) Photo by H.Zell (2009) Wikimedia Commons

Aristolochia fimbriata, an interesting Dutchman's pipe native to Argentina. Small flies landing on the erect upper calyx lobe slip down into the inflated, pipe-like chamber below.

There are approximately 350 species of Aristolochia, mostly from tropical regions of the world. Many species have ingenious insect traps and malodorous, often nauseating stenches when the blossoms first open. One of the largest and most bizarre flowers on earth is the Brazilian Dutchman's pipe (A. gigantea). The showy maroon calyx-like corolla is the size of a large dinner plate (30 centimeters) across), with an "inviting" orifice leading into an inflated, bladder-like trap. Another unusual Dutchman's pipe native to northern California (A. californica) has much smaller blossoms that are pollinated by fungus gnats. Species of Aristolochia (often called pipevines) are the host for the pipevine swallowtail, a beautiful blue butterfly with bright red caterpillars.

This butterfly larva (Battus philenor) typically feeds on plants of the genus Aristolochia known as pipevines. In fact, toxins in the host plant are conferred to the larva and adult moth, giving them protection from predators. This striking caterpillar belongs to the swallowtail butterfly family (Papilionidae). When I took this photo I didn't realize that the host plant was Watson's Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia watsonii) native to the Arizona desert region. Special thanks to Douglas Ripley for the identification.

Photo by Greg Hume (2012) Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor): Swallowtail family (Papilionidae).

The family Aristolochiaceae belongs to the order Piperales in the non-monocot, non-eudicot angiosperm group called the magnoliid clade or "magnoliids." According to W.S. Judd, et al. (2008), this clade is probably monophyletic and also includes the primitive orders Magnoliales, Laurales, and Canellales.

  Judd, W.S., Campbell, C.S., Kellogg, E.A., Stevens, P.F., and M.J. Donaghue. 2008. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach (Third Edition). Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, Massachusetts. 611 p.

  Wayne's Word Article About Stinking Flowers  

A Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia californica) native to the Coast Ranges of Central and Northern California, and foothills of the Sierra Nevada. This California species is pollinated by fungus gnats.

The bizarre flower of a Brazilian Dutchman's pipe Aristolochia gigantea. The front view (left) shows a central yellow spot where an opening leads into an enclosed pouch. The back view (right) superficially resembles a pair of lungs with a canal leading into an inflated, stomach-like pouch. The blossom is over 14 inches (36 cm) long.

After Searching For Years, I Finally Found The Arizona Pipevine In Full Bloom!

Arizona Pipevine (Aristolochia watsonii) Flower & Fruit

Boyce-Thompson Arboretum

Little Dragoon Mtns (Texas Canyon)