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 Aristolochia subsp. var.  
Calico Flower (Aristolochia elegans)
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Aristolochiaceae > Aristolochia var. ,

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Aristolochia is a large genus of plants with over 500 species, belonging to the Birthwort family (Aristolochiaceae).

This is a genus of evergreen and deciduous woody vines and herbaceous perennials. They are widespread and occur in the most diverse climates, but not in Australia.

The smooth stem is erect or somewhat twining.

The simple leaves are alternate and cordate, membranous, growing on leaf stalks. There are no stipules.

Ornamental Aristolochia

The flowers grow in the leaf axils. They are inflated and globose at the base, continuing as a long perianth tube, ending in a tongue-shaped, brightly colored lobe. There is no corolla. These flowers have a specialized pollination mechanism. The plants are aromatic and their strong scent attracts insects. The inner part of the perianth tube is covered with hairs, acting as a fly-trap. These hairs then wither to release the fly, covered with pollen. The appearance of the flowers gives rise to the genus' common name Dutchman's pipe.

The calyx is one to three whorled, and three to six toothed. The sepals are united (gamosepalous). There are six to 40 stamens in one whorl. They are united with the style, forming a gynostemium.

The ovary is inferior and is four to six locular.

The fruit is dehiscent capsule with many endospermic seeds.

Some species are commonly called Dutchman's Pipe, Pipevine (Aristolochia macrophylla), Birthwort (Aristolochia clematitis), and Virginia Snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria). The first three names come from the shape of the flowers, which resembles a pipe and a birth canal. Birthwort was given to women in labor to expel the placenta, but since aristolochic acid is a poison, it sometimes resulted in the mother dying. Nevertheless, aristolochic acid is said to cure wounds or snakebites in a spectacular way. Decoctions of birthwort stimulate the production of white corpuscles and increase their activity. Furthermore, birthwort contains a disinfectant which drains off fluid from the wound. Birthwort was therefore highly regarded by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

Nonetheless, epidemiological and laboratory studies have shown the toxicity of herbal remedies containing plant species of the genus Aristolochia. Herbal compounds containing Aristolochia are classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Many species of Aristolochia are food for larvae of Swallowtail butterflies.

Some reference books state that the Latin name Aristolochia was developed from Greek etymons meaning aristos, "best", and locheia, "childbirth" or "childbed".

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Aristolochia (named for supposed medicinal virtues). Aristolochiaceae. BirthWort. Perennial herbs or shrubs, many climbing, remarkable for the very odd- shaped flowers, some species grown in the open, but most of them cultivated as odd glasshouse subjects.

The corolla is wanting, but the calyx is corolla-like, tubular, mostly variously bent, and commonly tumid above the ovary and contracted at the mouth, superior; stamens commonly 6, short and adnate to the style, which is fleshy and lobed: fr. a naked 6-valved caps. ; seeds flat. — About 180 species of warm and temperate regions throughout the earth; mostly woody twiners. Many species are evergreen. The tender species are cult, for the strikingly irregular and grotesque fls. The fls. are usually fetid in odor, often very disagreeable. Many species are grown in botanic gardens and in the collections of fanciers, but those usually cult, or planted are to be found in the treatment which follows.

These plants are mostly climbing vines, A. macrophylla being perhaps the best known vine for shade purposes. It is vigorous and of rapid growth, and has never been known to be attacked by fungoid or insect enemies. For covering outbuildings quickly it has no equal, owing to the heavy growth of foliage and its adaptability to any situation. The flowers are peculiar in shape, giving rise to the popular name, Dutchman's pipe. These are inconspicuous, however, compared with the tropical species of this genus. In contrast with the foregoing, A. grandiflora var. Sturtevantii has gigantic flowers with a tail sometimes 3 feet long. This species must be cultivated under glass and is most suitable for large structures as the odor when in bloom beggars description, it being such that flies have been known to be deceived, thinking its origin was due to putridity. There are other fine species for indoor culture as A. brasiliensis and A. Goldieana. These are best propagated from cuttings taken from well-matured wood in early spring or at pruning time. A rich soil is desirable and preference is given to planting the roots in a border or bed that they may be trained up rafters or pillars of warmhouses. Pot culture does not give good results. Another very pretty species is A. elegans. This is not odorous, can easily be procured from seeds, which are freely produced under cultivation. It will bloom the first year under glass, and may be cut back to give light to other plants in winter. The outdoor A. macrophylla (often known as A. Sipho) produces good seed; this seems to be the only way to increase it as hardwood cuttings do not root readily.

A. altissima, Deaf. Fls. 2 in. or leas long, brownish. Sicily and Algeria.—Would probably be hardy with protection in the middle states.—A. anguicida, Jacq. Lvs. long-cordate: fls. small, 1-2 in. long, with a long-pointed limb. Colombia.—A. barbata, Jacq. Lvs. oblong and cordate. Fls. 2½ in., purple. Venezuela.-A. caudate and A. ciliosa, Benth.-A. fimbriata.—A, clypeata, Lindl. & Andre. Lvs. triangular- ovate, pointed: fls. with a large, oval, purple-spotted, tailless limb. S. Amer.—A. Duchartrei, Andre --A. Ruiziana.—A. fimbriata, Cham. A free-flowering greenhouse species: lvs. small, cordate-orbicular: fls. small, the little limb glandular-ciliate. Brazil.—A. hians. Willd. Lvs. round-cordate: fls. bronze-green, with lobed limb and a hairy beak. Venezuela.— A. Kaempferi. Willd. Toll-climbing: Lvs. ovate-cordate or hastate, variable: fls. solitary, tomentose, with narrow rim, yellow outside, purple inside. Japan. Probably hardy in the N.—A. longicaudata. Mast. Lvs. ovate and cordate: fls. cream-colored with purple markings, with a large sac-like tube, hairy at the throat, with no expanded limb but a very long tail. S. Amer.—A. longifolia. Champ. Branches climbing, from a woody rootstock: Lvs. thick, linear-lanceolate: fls. U-shaped, with a 2-lobed purple limb 2½ in. across. Hong Kong.—A. macroura, Gomez. Lvs. reniform, lobed: fl. dark maroon, 6-spurred, the lip with a twisted cusp. Brazil.—A. macroura Xbrasiliensis, a garden hybrid.—A. odoratissima, Linn. Lvs. cordate-ovate: fl. solitary, purple, sweet. Jamaica.—A. pontica, Linn. Erect or ascending from a globose rootstock: Lvs. large, broadly ovate: fls. very large, curved, greenish purple, ill-smelling. Asia Minor.—A. ringens, Vahl. Lvs. round-reniform: fl. 7-10 in. long, green marked with dark purple, hairy inside, with 2 long lips, one of which has a much-expanded limb. Brazil. B.M. 5700.—A. Ruiziana, Duch. Lvs. reniform-cordate: fls. with tube 1 in. or less long, thecordate-ovatelimb3 in. across, and brown-spotted. Brazil.—A. saccata, WalL Lvs. long-ovate: fls. small, U-shaped, with a very narrow rim (suggesting the Dutchman's pipe), red. India.— A. Salpinx, Mast. Lvs. ovate-lanceolate: fls. small, with a trumpet- shaped, somewhat 2-lipped mouth, purplish. Paraguay.—A. ungulifolia. Mast. Lys. 3-lobed: fls. small, brownish and reddish, with a ciliate, tongue-like lip. Borneo.—A. Westlandii, Hems!. Lvs. oblong-lanceolate: fl. pendulous, with a spreading purple-marked limb 5 or 6 in. across. China. A greenhouse climber producing its fls. on the old parts of the plant near the ground.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

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Aristolochia gigantea



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