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Giant Pipevine Aristolochia gigantea

Previously known as:

  • Aristolochia sylvicola
  • Howardia gigantea
Phonetic Spelling
a-ris-toh-LOH-kee-uh jy-GAN-tee-uh
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Brazilian Dutchman's Pipe is an evergreen, tropical, woody vine in the Birthwort family.  It is native to the humid forests of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, and portions of Brazil.  Other common names include Giant Dutchman's Pipe, Giant Pipevine, and Giant Pelican Flower.

The genus name, Aristolochia, is the combination of two words. The Greek word, aristos, translated means "best." The Greek word, locheia, translated means "childbirth." This references the flower's structure resembling a human fetus. The species name, gigantea, is Latin and means "like that of the Giants," referring to the vine's huge flowers. The common name, Dutchman's Pipe, references the shape of the flowers that resemble the Meershaun smoking pipes once used in Europe. 

This plant is winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12. It will not survive temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The vine prefers full sun but appreciates partial shade in very hot climates. The soil needs to be moist and well-drained.  Pruning should be done in the late winter or early spring. 

The flowers are large, velvety, burgundy-colored with ivory-white veining. The blooms can measure up to 2 feet long and 1 foot wide. The light green leaves are heart-shaped. The fruits are papery capsules containing more than 20 seeds that are dispersed by the wind. The vine is propagated by seeds or root cuttings.

The Giant Dutchman's Pipe needs to be planted in warm and humid climates. The vine needs the support of a trellis or other structure. 

Flies pollinate the flowers because they are attracted to their strong scent.  This tropical vine's leaves are toxic and pose a threat to the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly. The larvae of the butterfly will eat the "giant" leaves and die within 3 days.

Caution: The plants of this genus contain a renal toxin known as aristolochic acid. Ingestion of any part of this plant may cause irreversible kidney failure.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  No serious problems. 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#low maintenance#trellises#large flowers#wind dispersed seeds#tropical vine#twining vine#unusual flowers#malodorous#arbor#toxic to humans#container plants
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#low maintenance#trellises#large flowers#wind dispersed seeds#tropical vine#twining vine#unusual flowers#malodorous#arbor#toxic to humans#container plants
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Aristolochia
    Species:
    gigantea
    Family:
    Aristolochiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    In the past, a European species was used medicinally for pain or infections related to childbirth.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central America and Brazil
    Distribution:
    Native: Northeast Brazil, South Brazil, Southeast Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Panama
    Wildlife Value:
    Flies are attracted to the flowers and aid in pollination. Most plants in this genus attract the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly. Unfortunately, this tropical vine's leaves are too toxic. The larvae of the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly will die from eating the foliage within 3 days.
    Climbing Method:
    Twining
    Edibility:
    Toxic to humans
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Vine
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Climbing
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    10b, 10a, 11b, 11a, 12b, 12a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits are oblong capsules that are green and become brown as they mature. They measure about 5 inches long and 1.5-2 inches wide. The capsule becomes papery as the fruit matures. The capsule splits open to release many seeds to the wind. The seeds are flat, rounded, or winged and usually ripen in the late summer.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Trumpet
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    The large bloom is velvety reddish-purple with ivory-colored veins. It measures 1-2 feet tall and 6 inches to 1 foot across. The flower is shaped in the form of a pouch and resembles a Dutchman's Pipe. They have no petals. In their native territory, they bloom from summer to winter. They are pollinated primarily by flies. The flies are attracted to their strong unpleasant odor.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Velvety
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Long-lasting
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The foliage is light green with heart-shaped leaves about 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. The leaf margins are entire. There are whitish hairs noted on the undersides of the leaves.
  • Bark:
    Bark Description:
    The mature is cork-like and deeply grooved on mature vines.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Vertical Spaces
    Landscape Theme:
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Screen/Privacy
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Children
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    Ingestion of any parts of this plant may cause irreversible kidney failure.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Aristolochic acid--lethal toxin
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Sap/Juice
    Seeds
    Stems