The papery blooms of the giant Dutchman’s pipe hang decoratively above the path in the Palm House.
One of 300 species of climbers, shrubs and perennials from temperate and tropical zones the genus Aristolochia belongs to the birthwort family Aristolochiaceae. A. gigantea is a native of Brazil and Central America, and requires cultivation in a hot, humid environment. It is a fast growing climber, reaching 7m in height, whose mature stems become corky and angular. The papery flowers are burgundy with a network of cream veining, and are formed from a single petal up to 20cm across at the center of which is a pouch, or perianth tube. The flowers emit an unsavoury scent, which coupled with the colouring, lures flies into the perianth tube. Once inside the flies are trapped by downward facing hairs which only relax to release the fly once the plant has been pollinated. Upon pollination cylindrical dehiscent seed capsules may be produced containing numerous seeds.