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November 10th, 2021

Dutchman’s Pipe is a haven for the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

by R.S. Walsh

Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia durior) is a woody vine that produces flowers shaped like curved pipes with heart-shaped leaves.

These S-shaped flowers are produced in late spring and early summer. While this vine is considered a native in Florida, it has actually naturalized throughout the east coast of the United States ranging from Maine to Florida, including Canada.

This unique vine has a fast growth rate that can reach a height of 20-30 feet, grows best in full sun to part shade, and is best suited for growing on a trellis in the south Florida garden.

Aside from its beautiful flowers, this unique specimen is the host plant to the pipevine swallowtail butterfly. The caterpillar of this butterfly has specifically evolved to feed on the vine which is actually extremely distasteful and toxic to other butterfly species that might try to feed on this plant. In addition, this caterpillar stores the toxins from the plant in its body to make itself toxic to predators. Small flies and gnats are attracted to the open throat of the flower, directing them down the tube to pollinate the plant. The Dutchman’s Pipe vine seems to have created a very unique environment for itself and the special butterfly that has made this plant their haven for both food and protection.

This column is a joint effort by all at In The Garden, Sanibel’s garden center, located at 3889 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel Island.

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