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Aristolochia watsonii

Aristolochia watsonii (Watson's Dutchman's pipe, southwestern pipevine, Indian root, snakeroot) is a perennial plant[2] in the birthwort family (Aristolochiaceae), found growing among plants of the Arizona Uplands in the Sonoran Desert.[3]:138 The plant is inconspicuous,[3]:138 small and hard to spot, but can be found by following the pipevine swallowtail (blue swallowtail, Battus philenor) which lays eggs on it.[2]

Description[edit]

Growth pattern[edit]

It grows as vine with scrambling stems that create a dense, tangled mat over the years when growing on open ground.[2][3]:138

Roots, stems, and leaves[edit]

According to one source, stems are 6 to 18 inches (15 to 46 cm) long, with greenish-brown arrowhead shaped 14 to 2 12 inches (0.64 to 6.35 cm) leaves.[3]:138 Another source states stems can reach 3 feet (0.91 m), in dense mats that are 1 to 2 feet (0.30 to 0.61 m) wide.[2] It drops its leaves in the fall and winter (cold-deciduous), and losing stems as well as leaves in a freeze.[2] In full sun and drought conditions, leaves turn from green to purple-brown.[2]

Inflorescence and fruit[edit]

It has "bizarre" looking, musky smelling flowers, which resemble the ear of a rodent.[3]:138 It blooms from April to October. 1 to 1 12 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm) flowers are shaped like a rodent's ear[2][3]:138 are green or burgundy-brown outside to the ear rim, then green speckled with burgundy-brown inside, with hairs on the opening ear rim.[3]:138 Flowers last 1–2 days.[2]

Fruits are capsules having 5 vertical ribs with triangular shaped flat and black seeds in each of five compartments.[2]

Ecological interactions[edit]

Flowers shaped and smelling like a rodent's ear attract small blood-sucking flies, which are deceived by the appearance and odor and get trapped in the convoluted flower form for a day, then escape to pollinate another plant.[2][3]:138 It attracts the Pipevine Swallowtail,[4] and is where the butterfly gets its distasteful toxins that protect the butterfly from predation.[2] The caterpillar may eat all of the leaves on a plant, but they then grow back.[2]

Toxicity[edit]

All parts of this plant are toxic.[2][5]

Habitat and range[edit]

It is found from Arizona to western Texas, in mountains at elevations from 2,000 to 4,500 feet (610 to 1,370 m).[3]:138

Human use[edit]

Native Americans believed it could be used to treat snakebites, hence its common names Indian root[citation needed] or snakeroot.[3]:138

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Aristolochia watsonii Wooton & Standl.". The Plant List. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Aristolochia watsonii: Watson's Dutchman's Pipe / Desert Pipevine, Garden Oracle, Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, and the Desert Southwest, [1]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Sonoran Desert Wildflowers, Richard Spellenberg, 2nd ed., 2012, ISBN 9780762773688
  4. ^ Naturewide Images, Robert A. Behrstock, ATTRACTING WILDLIFE I
  5. ^ Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor, Fairfax County Public Schools

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