By Suzanne Wodek
Commonly called Dutchman’s pipe or pipevine, Aristolochia macrophylla is a native deciduous, woody, climbing vine that occurs in rich, moist woods and along streams. The genus name comes from the Greek aristos, meaning “best,” and lochia meaning “childbirth” or “delivery” in reference to the fact that the flower structure closely resembles a human fetus in the womb and parts of the plant were used for treatment of pain and infections during childbirth. Others believe the flower resembles a Dutch smoking pipe.
Its large nine-inch heart-shaped leaves and rapid climbing growth of 20 to 30 feet make this an ideal plant for training on arbors and trellises. If you want shade or privacy this is a great alternative to non-native invasive species. The fragrant flowers attract local insects. In September a two- to four-inch fruit resembling a cucumber is produced.
Dutchman’s pipe is also an important host plant for butterflies. According to the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), it is the primary food for the pipevine swallowtail. The butterflies are not drawn to the plant simply because they like the taste. According to NABA, “scientists have determined that pipevine plants contain chemicals that when ingested by the caterpillars make them poisonous.” As a result, would-be predators avoid eating the caterpillars. All members of Aristolochia macrophylla contain the natural substance aristolochic acid. This acid is toxic to humans.
Upcoming events at the Botanical gardens
✿ The Language of Science with garden manager Jay Kranyik. Sunday, June 4, 9–11:30 a.m. This naturalists’ walk will explore and demystify the many facets of scientific nomenclature. Rain or shine–bring rain wear/umbrella.
✿ Edible Summertime Mushrooms and Their Lookalikes, Saturday, June 25, 9–11:30 a.m. Michael Hopping, amateur mycologist and mushroom identifier for the Asheville Mushroom Club, will discuss edible mushrooms and their poisonous and sometimes deadly look-alikes. Feel free to bring mushrooms you’ve found.
✿ A Special Book Club in Celebration of Pollinator Month, Wednesday, June 21, 4–5:30 p.m. Join BGA staffer Heather Rayburn as she hosts a special book club in celebration of Pollinator Month. Participants should read Andrew Moore’s Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit before the event.
Educational programs are $12 for members. $17 for non-members. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes by calling 828.252.5190.