Hardy and Tropical Pipevines
My recent article about wooly pipevine (Aristolochia tomentosa) made no mention of other pipevines. Many more suitable for gardens exist. Here are a few that may fit into your garden plan.
Worldwide, about 49 species of pipevines exist (excluding synonyms) according to GRIN
, but not all of them are suitable for cultivation. Most gardeners in the United States can choose a native pipevine right for their garden, and native species are usually preferable for supporting native butterflies.
Some pipevines native to the U.S.A. include:
• A. serpentaria (Virginia snakeroot, Zones 5a-8b) a small groundcover plant native to the middle and eastern lower 48 states; quite rare; illegal to collect
• A. reticulata (Texas snakeroot, Zones 8-11)) native to TX, OK, LA and AR; grows in moist, shaded woodlands
• A. californica (California pipevine, Zones 8a-10b) native to CA
• A. watsonii (Watson's pipevine. Zones 9a and above) native to AZ and NM
• A. macrophylla (broadleaf birthwort, bigleaf pipevine, Zones 4a-8b) native to the Eastern USA and differentiated from A. tomentosa (wooly pipevine, Zones 5-10) by its glabrous (smooth, without hairs) leaves.
• A. tomentosa (wooly pipevine, Zones 5-10) native to eastern and southeastern USA and west to TX, OK, and KS (topic of previous article)
Several pipevines not native to the United States are sometimes grown. Noted for their very large, spectacular blooms, these pipevines attract the attention of people, but they are not the best choice for the pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor). The polydamas butterfly (Battus polydamas) can survive on these tropical pipevines, but their range stretches only as far as South Texas and peninsula Florida and south to Argentina. Strays have been seen as far north as Kentucky and Missouri.
The pipevine swallowtail, on the other hand, ranges from across the United States to Mexico and on to Guatemala and Costa Rica. Occasionally strays are seen in southern Ontario. Pipevine swallowtails are found all the way from New England down to Florida and west all the way to California and Oregon.
Some non-native (to the United States) pipevines are:
• A. elegans syn. A. littoralis (calico flower or elegant pipevine, Zones 8-10) Category II exotic invasive plant in Florida according to FLEPPC; native to South America (mostly Brazil); large, ornamental flower; vigorous vine.
• A. grandiflora (pelican vine, Zone 11) sports a very large, spectacular flower that smells like rotting meat until it is pollinated and then the odor dissipates; blooms have heart-shaped faces up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide with a foot-long, slender tail; native to Brazil, Mexico, and Panama.
• A. gigantea (giant Dutchman’s pipe or pelican flower, Zones 9-10) a fast growing vine that can grow 15-20 ft tall with support; has large, oddly-shaped flowers that open to 6 inches wide by nearly a foot tall; A. gigantea ‘Brasiliensis’ is even larger than A. gigantea.
• A. trilobata (Dutchman’s pipe, Zones 9-11) native to Central America; flower has a long tail.
• A. fimbriata (white veined pipevine, Zones 7-10) from Argentina, Paraguay, and Southern Brazil could be easily grown in a hanging basket; plants grow only 18 inches long and grow as a groundcover plant.
• A. clematitis (creeping birthwort, Zones 6b-9b) native to Europe. Naturalized in eastern U.S. Suitable host for pipevine swallowtail.
• A. odoratissima (fragrant Dutchman’s pipe, Zones 9-11) from Mexico and South America.
When making a decision about which pipevine to include in your garden, consider the fact that the gold rim swallowtail (polydamas) is a tropical butterfly and uses the tropical pipevines as its host plant. The pipevine swallowtail is not a tropical butterfly, and its larvae will not survive on the tropical pipevines. Some tropical butterflies in Mexico and South America depend on the tropical pipevines.
It stands to reason that gardeners in the most of the United States would stick with the native pipevines if they are gardening for native butterflies. Both Battus species will lay eggs on both native and tropical pipevines. However, the pipevine swallowtail larvae find at about the first instar that the tropical pipevines do not supply the nutrition necessary for their continued survival. Unfortunately, flowers of native pipevines are not as spectacular as the flowers of the tropicals. The beauty of the tropicals often is the determining factor for those who are smitten by the sheer splendor of the amazing tropical flowers.
While this is by no means a review of all Aristolochia species, it will give the reader an overview of a few of the choices available. Much conflicting information is found in the taxonomy of this genus, and careful study is needed to separate fact from fiction. Even so, the genus offers an amazing variety of choices. It is up to each of us to choose one that is right for us and our butterflies.
Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria) Doug Goldman, hosted by the USDA-NRCS Plants Database/ USDA-NRCS-NPDT
Aristolochia grandiflora - IMG 4616 by C T Johansson, Wikipedia
A. californica by Kell (Dave's Garden)
A. macrophylla by Azulivines (Dave's Garden)
A. watsonii by DonnaB (Dave's Garden)
A. elegans by Dinu (Dave's Garden)
A. gigantea and A trilobata by DonnaB (Dave's Garden)
A. fimbriata by butterflybyrob (Dave's Garden)