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Aristolochia californica is also known as the pipevine, or “Dutchman’s pipe.” (Anonymous, 2012) Aristolochia californica is a “perennial endemic riparian” (Fordyce, 2002) woody rambling vine to 4 m tall. It grows in California and is food for the swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor. The caterpillar of Battus philenor eat the leaves of Aristolochia californica and accumulate a toxic compound which is unpalatable to birds. This is a natural protective mechanism for the butterfly. The butterfly also uses the plant in other ways, including making a cocoon in the flower of Aristolochia californica. Its stem and leaves are silky hairy and somewhat bluish green. In a study examining the relationship between Battus philenor and Aristolochia californica, the hairs of the plant were shaved off of the leaves, and it was discovered that the smooth leaves were eaten by the caterpillar more readily. In other words, the caterpillars avoid the trichomes on the plant. The leaves are deciduous and mostly heart shaped, and they reach up to 13 cm long.

Aristolochia californica has a calyx with a green tint and purplish veins, reaching up to 4 cm long. Flowers are on new growth, and displayed singly with an odd smell. The color of the flowers range from greenish to light brown. The plant uses insects, for example, fungus gnats, to aid in pollination. The fungus gnats are attracted to the plant, and become trapped inside the flower as it closes for a few hours. The fungus gnats have a chance to accumulate pollen and pollinate the flower and then escape. Seeds are “concave”(Adams, 2005) and do not have wings.

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© Kusra Kapule, Oregon State University

Source: BOT 323 Flowering Plants of the World, Oregon State University

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