Aristolochia tagala Ludolf Karl Adelbert von Chamisso, 1832.
Synonyms:   Aristolochia acuminata ,   Aristolochia roxburghiana ,   Aristolochia megalophylla ,   Aristolochia mindanaensis.
Birthwort
ARISTOLOCHIACEAE
  
Don Herbison-Evans,
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Christine Ashe & Jessica May


(Photo: courtesy of Donald Simpson, Magnetic Island)

This is a vine that is found across south-east Asia, from India to the Solomons.


(Photo: courtesy of Donald Simpson, Magnetic Island)

It grows happily in gardens in Australia from Sydney to Cape York. The plant has no tendrils, so sometimes needs some help getting onto a support for its climbing habit. The vines can grow to a height of 20 metres.


(Photo: courtesy of Karen Doyle, Townsville)

It is cultivated for its herbal properties and its unusual flower.


(Photo: courtesy of Jessica May, Cairns State High School)

The flower is green and purple. It has a bowl and curved stem like a dutchman's pipe, and has a large upper lip. The total height of the flower is about 6 cms. The flower is not so spectacular as that of of the related plant that is called "Dutchman's Pipe" (Aristolochia elegans), but the leaves of "Dutchman's Pipe" are poisonous to the caterpillars of Australian Butterflies, so it preferable to avoid cultivating "Dutchman's Pipe" in Australia.


(Photo: courtesy of Jessica May, Cairns State High School)

The lower leaves are shaped like a lance-head, and the upper leaves are heart-shaped.


(Photo: courtesy of Donald Simpson, Magnetic Island)

The leaves have a length up to 20 cms.


(Photo: courtesy of Jessica May, Cairns State High School)

The seedpods are spherical and ribbed, with a diameter of about 3 cms.


(Photo: courtesy of Jessica May, Cairns State High School)

As they ripen, the pods split into segments.


(Photo: courtesy of Jessica May, Cairns State High School)

The seeds are heart-shaped, and have a flanged membrane that may help them displerse in the wind. The seeds have a width of about 0.5 cms.


(Photo: courtesy of Jessica May, Cairns State High School)

It has the interesting growth habit of going upwards and then dying off down the bottom until all that is left there is a tangled gnarled vine, while up the top it is healthy and green looking. From the top, you can't even see the die back.


The dead underside of the vine
(Photo: courtesy of Jessica May, Cairns State High School)

The 'green' part or the shoots of the vine are extremely delicate. The entire 'branch' can completely die if it is even a little knocked. It also suffers die back similar to passionfruit when pruned.

It seems to have 5 levels :

  • the new shoots which are delicate and bright green with smaller glossy leaves,
  • the older shoots which are thicker in stem and not glossy in the leaf with larger leaves,
  • the dying part of the plant, the leaves die off but don't drop off they remain on the vine and then it grows back on itself
  • established woody parts of the vine (these are the green shoots that survive the die back!). The new shoots come from this part
  • the original part of the vine which ends up looking almost fig like. Shoots also come from this part.


    original part of vine climbing a Frangipani
    (Photo: courtesy of Jessica May, Cairns State High School)

    The primary die back is in the dry season from March to November, and then once the humidity and water comes the vine really grows rapidly.

    The vine grows more rapidly than the related Pararistolochia praevenosa, so is often preferred when planted to attract butterfly larvae.

    This is one of the preferred foodplants of some Australian Butterflies, including:


    Cressida cressida

    Troides euphorion

    Troides priamus

    Troides richmondia

    Atrophaneura polydorus

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    (created 21 November 2009, updated 17 Dcember 2011)