Aristolochia ringens: Gaping Dutchman’s Pipe

Family: Aristolochiaceae
Common name: Gaping Dutchman’s Pipe, Pipe vine

The flowers of Gaping Dutchman’s Pipe looks so interesting and unique that you cannot take your eyes off this flower. I felt that it resembles a bird more than a pipe, with its bulbous body and a long sword-like tail.

These plants are tall, perennial vines that can climb on fences, trellis or supporting structures, growing very quickly. Leaves are bright green, rounded, almost heart-shaped growing on slender, hairless vines. The flowers grow on stalks that are much longer than leaf stalks, markedly purple towards the tip.

Flowers are 15-25 cms long, pale green with deep purple markings. They have an elongated, oval sac in the middle that’s woolly inside, with 2 long lip-like petals extending outside. The gap between these two petals is what gives the plant its name ‘Gaping Dutchman’s Pipe’.

After fertilization, the plant produces 5-10cms long green fruits that are divided into 6 distinctly ridged segments, each compartment containing winged-seeds that are dispersed by wind.

Native to Brazil, this plant is now grown in tropical countries all over the world due to its unique flowers. The plants need good sunlight and well-drained soil to grow well. Though they can withstand drought and weather fluctuations.

Gaping Dutchman’s Pipe plants can also crawl along the ground, if they cannot find any structure to climb on to, though the flowers might be dirtied and frayed if it’s close to the soil. So it’s always better to grow these plants near solid supporting structures.

The name ‘ringens’ comes from the Latin word for snarling because of the open mouth near the flower tubes. Though they are mostly grown as ornamental plants, these plants have some medicinal properties in the treatment of snake bites, and cancer.

These plants are considered highly invasive in some parts of the world, where they have escaped cultivation, growing and covering areas very quickly.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings.