Aristolochia gigantea: Giant Dutchman’s pipe

Family: Aristolochiaceae
Common name: Giant Dutchman’s pipe, Brazilian Dutchman’s pipe, Pelican flower, Giant pelican flower, Giant pipevine

Giant Dutchman’s pipe is a striking and unique climber that produces very interesting extra-large, maroon-colored flowers that are said to resemble pipes from olden times. This plant is native to Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia, and it has become popular in gardens all around the world due to its stunning and unusual appearance.

They are fast-growing and vigorous climbers that can reach up to 10 metes in height, climbing on trellises or supporting structures. Giant Dutchman’s pipe has large, heart-shaped leaves that are dark green and glossy, which makes them a beautiful backdrop for the stunning blooms that emerge during the summer months.

The flowers are truly unique in their appearance, and they resemble a Dutchman’s pipe, which is where the name of the plant comes from. The blooms are brownish-purple in color with whitish-yellow veins, and can grow up to 30 cm tall and 15 cm wide, making them a true showstopper in any garden. The flowers have a strong, unpleasant odor, attracting flies and insects that help pollinate the plant.

Due to the arrangement of hairs in the perianth tube, the insects are temporarily trapped inside the flower so that the pollen they carry can be transferred to the flower. This also gives the flower enough time to transfer pollen onto the insect’s body. After a while, the hairs in the perianth tube relax, allowing the insect to fly away.

Once pollinated, the Giant Dutchman’s pipe flower produces cylindrical seed capsules that are about 10 cm long. After maturing, the seed capsules open up to release small, flattened, winged seeds that are dispersed by wind.

Giant Dutchman’s pipe plants are relatively easy to grow and care for, as long as you provide the right growing conditions. This plant thrives in warm and humid climates, so it’s important to keep it well-watered, in a location that receives plenty of sunlight.

It has to be noted that these plants are vigorous climbers that can quickly take over a plant by climbing over it and choking if, if left unchecked. Therefore, it’s important to provide them with strong support structures, such as a trellises or fences, and to prune it regularly to keep it under control.

These plants have been used in the treatment of wounds, eczema, skin diseases, arthritis, gout, gall bladder ailments, snake bites, digestive issues etc. But the Giant Dutchman’s pipe contains a very strong toxic substance called aristolochic acid, and hence cannot be consumed.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings. If you’re starting from seeds, it’s best to plant them in a well-draining soil mix and to keep them warm and moist until they germinate. Once the seedlings have emerged, you can transplant them into larger pots or into the garden.

If you’re propagating through cuttings, it’s best to take them in the spring or summer, when the plant is actively growing. Simply take a cutting that is around 4-6 inches in length and remove the leaves from the bottom half. Then, dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone and plant it in a well-draining soil mix.