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Aristoloche géante (Aristolochia gigantea) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Agnès Iatzoura
Aristoloche géante (Aristolochia gigantea) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Agnès Iatzoura

Giant Dutchman’s pipe

This thriving climbing part with spectacular inflorescence is native to South America. The solitary flowers, which can reach an exceptional 30 cm in length, are a burgundy colour with cream-coloured veins, and have a distinctive pollination strategy.

Identity Card

Common name
Giant Dutchman’s pipe
Binominal name
Aristolochia gigantea Hook.

Taxonomy

Kingdom
Plantae
Family
Aristolochiaceae
Genus
Aristolochia
Species
Aristolochia gigantea

Detailed Informations

Area of origin
Brazil, Panama

Etymology

Aristolochia is formed by aristos (excellent, best) and locheia (the blood discharge following childbirth, still referred to as lochia today). Gigantea means “giant”.

Description and flowering period

It is a climbing vine which rapidly reaches 10 meters in height – occasionally 20. Its young slender stems twine around any available support in its vicinity. Its dense persistent foliage is composed of bright green heart-shaped leaves covered with white hairs on their underside. Its solitary flowers consist of a creased widely spread limb and of a curved tube. They reach a remarkable size (30cm in length and 15cm in width) and are mostly burgundy with cream-coloured veins. Its fruits are capsules shaped like upside-down parachutes which burst when mature to liberate numerous flat paper-like seeds. A noteworthy fact is its flower’s peculiar pollination strategy: pollen bearing insects are lured towards the flower by its strong ammonia scent. Once inside the flower they are then held captive by the numerous hairs covering the inside of the flower tube. Only when pollination has been successfully completed do the hairs start to wither, thus freeing the insect. Upon leaving, the insect gets covered once again by pollen, thus is ready to pollinate a new flower.

Habitat

It requires a well-drained soil and a sunny to partially shady exposure.

Uses

Ornamental

Notes

The whole plant is toxic! A highly harmful and carcinogenic substance called aristolochic acid is extracted from numerous plants in the Aristolochiaceae family, this substance is prohibited in many European countries, including France.

 Aristoloche géante (Aristolochia gigantea) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin

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