Saturday, 6 June 2009

the many faces of the aristolochia

The Aristolochia probably ranks as a plant which should be grown in a section called the "Weird and the Wonderful", along with others like the Rafflesia and the Titan Arum.

I saw this (pictured right) at AMK this morning. At first, I thought this was the A. grandiflora, but now I think this is the A. brasiliensis. Then again, I could be wrong because there are some 500 over different species across the world, some of which look virtually alike. This is the first time i've seen it 'in the flesh', and I have to say, it's pretty darn big, almost as wide as an SKII face mask. Hopefully mine will mature quickly enough to bear flowers.

Here's what I found on Wikipedia:-

"Aristolochia is a large plant genus with over 500 species. Collectively known as birthworts, pipevines or Dutchman's pipes, they are the namesake of the family (Aristolochiaceae). They are widespread and occur in the most diverse climates, but they are not native to Australia. Some species, like A. utriformis and A. westlandii, are threatened with extinction.

Aristolochia is a genus of evergreen and deciduous woody vines and herbaceous perennials. The smooth stem is erect or somewhat twining. The simple leaves are alternate and cordate, membranous, growing on leaf stalks. There are no stipules.

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. 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.

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 fruit is dehiscent capsule with many endospermic seeds.

The common names "Dutchman's Pipe" and "Pipevine" (e.g. Common Pipevine, A. durior) are an allusion to old-fashioned meerschaum pipes at one time common in the Netherlands and Northern Germany. "Birthwort" (e.g. European Birthwort, A. clematitis) refers to these species' flower shape, resembling a birth canal. Some reference books[citation needed] state that the scientific name Aristolochia was developed from Ancient Greek aristos (άριστος) "best" + locheia (λοχεία), "childbirth" or "childbed".

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