Dutchman's Pipe - Largest Flower in Costa Rica

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another of my all time favorite flowers is the Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia spp.) It's one of the coolest looking flowers you will ever see. There is native species in Virginia (Aristolochia duror) that I loved, so imagine how happy I was when I found out that here in Costa Rica we have one too, and it's gigantic! The Dutchman's Pipe of Costa Rica (Aristolochia grandiflora) is a native vine with flowers reaching 20cm in length - some of the largest in the world. dutchmans-pipe

It is rumored that this plant is carnivorous, but it really only traps flies or other insects for one day. On the first day that it blooms, it smells like rotting flesh. This, and the maroon color of the flower, attract carrion loving flies who travel down the flower tube to where the receptive female parts are located. 

They become trapped here by downward pointing hairs and slippery papillae.  One the second day of flowering, the foul odor disappears as the hairs wilt and the entry way widens, and the flies escape, carrying pollen with them on the way out. They then enter a new flower, whose female parts are fertile on the first day of flowering, become trapped, pollinating the flower, escape the next day carrying pollen with them again.. and hence the process continues. 

Dutchman's Pipe grows on both the Pacific and Caribbean slopes of Costa Rica usually in wet environments along the edge of forests. It is not widely used in gardens, but I'm going to keep an eye out for it and try to grow it from a clipping. 


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