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Dutchman’s Pipe
Deciduous, Evergreen, Vines

Twining vines noted for curiously shaped flowers in rather sober colors; they resemble curved pipes with flared bowls or birds with bent necks. Vigorous growers; thin out unwanted growth in late dormant season or wait until after bloom. If plant is too thick and tangled for selective thinning, cut it to the ground before spring growth begins.

Aristolochia californica

Native to Coast ranges and Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California. Will cover an 8- by 12-ft. screen with some training or climb by long, thin shoots 10–16 ft. into any nearby tree without harming it. Flower display comes before leafout in winter or early spring; pendulous, 1-in.-long blooms are cream colored with red-purple veins. Bright green, heart-shaped leaves to 5 in. long. Interesting and useful where many less hardy vines would freeze. Sometimes used as a groundcover. Grows from seed. Accepts any soil.

Aristolochia gigantea (photo courtesy of Laura Dunkin-Hubby)
Aristolochia gigantea (photo courtesy of Laura Dunkin-Hubby)

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Aristolochia gigantea

Evergreen, from Panama and Brazil. Stems grow to 15–20 ft. long. Triangular to heart-shaped, dark green leaves can reach 4 in. across. In summer to early winter, stems bear spectacular flowers to 1 ft. long and half as wide; blossoms are burgundy with white netting and a golden throat. They have an unusual fragrance reminiscent of lemony furniture polish. A. g. ‘Brasiliensis’ (A. brasiliensis) has flowers to 10 in. long and 7 in. wide with an intricate netting pattern of white and brown. Both grow best in frost-free areas. Sun or partial shade.

Aristolochia littoralis

Evergreen, native to Brazil. Grows to 15–25 ft. in its native habitat. Wiry, slender stems bear heart-shaped leaves. In summer, whitish buds shaped like little pelicans open to 3-in.-wide, heart-shaped flowers of deep purple veined in creamy white. Needs rich soil and partial shade.

Aristolochia macrophylla

Native to the eastern United States. Large (6 to 14-in.-long), kidney-shaped, deep green leaves are carried in shingle-like pattern to form a dense cloak on a trellis; the vine will cover a 15- by 20-ft. area in a single season and was once a favorite for screening a porch. Blooms in late spring, early summer. Flowers are almost hidden by leaves; each is a yellowish green, 3 in., curved tube flaring into three brownish purple lobes about 1 in. wide. Thrives in full sun to heavy shade. Average to good soil and ample water produce the fastest growth and the largest leaves. Dutchman’s pipe will not stand strong winds. Short lived in warm winter areas. Easily grown from seed.

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