This pipevine, known as the white-veined Dutchman’s pipe, is a scrambler (unlike the vast majority of its 500 relatives in Aristolochiaceae family which are climbers), and is making impressive territorial ground cover gains through the newly-cleared West Tropics corridor of the Glasshouse Range.
Rounded, heart-shaped leaves with a pewter patterning overlaid on green arise all along the serpentine, smooth stems. The solitary flowers arise from the leaf axils and each lasts only 24 hours.
The fabulous flowers are so decadent! The inflated perianth tube is chalky white with pale green veining and it bends right back so that the enlarged lobe, instead of being a hood as in most other species, is in fact a downward pointing, embossed heart-shape in a maroon and green seersucker, edged all around with fine skinny tentacles each dipped in blue ink.
Aristolochias exhibit fascinating pollination mechanisms: the stench attracts insects into the inflated perianth tube which is lined with downward pointing hairs that form an impenetrable forest. The insect is prevented from escaping until the whole flower has collapsed. The insect then emerges covered in pollen to get duped once again and trapped in another flower and effect pollination.
Many Aristolochia species are a food source for pipevine swallowtail butterflies – ingesting the noxious plant tissue confers the disgusting taste to the butterfly, thereby making them less palatable to predators.