Botanical Name: Aristolochia tomentosa
Common Name: Wooly Dutchman’s Pipe, Wooly Birthwort, Wooly Pipevine
Description: Super cool Dutchman’s Pipe vine that grows naturally in nine counties in the Florida panhandle. Per the Atlas of Florida Plants, it is considered an endangered plant in our state.
The Wooly Dutchman’s Pipe is a deciduous, woody, climbing, and twining vine. It is typically seen in moist woods, thickets, or along streams or riverbanks. It grows rapidly to 20-30 feet tall. In forests, this plant may be seen in trees or other plants twining its way through the treetops. Its native habitat is stream banks, flood plains, and bottomland.
The leaves are large, heart-shaped, and very dense. They have wooly hairs on the upper and lower surfaces, The flower’s shape resembles the Meershaum smoking pipes made in Europe. This would explain the common name, “Dutchman’s Pipe.” Their blooms appear in mid to late spring and are usually hidden by the foliage. The blooms are hairy, yellow, or yellowish-green with purplish-lobes. In the fall the plant produces a grayish-brown, cylinder-like capsule that contains many seeds.
The vine is easily grown in moist, loamy, sandy soil. It does not tolerate dry soil and prefers full sun, part sun, or part shade. Pruning should be done during the winter months. The plant may be propagated by division, cuttings, or seeds.
The dense foliage would make it an ideal plant for an arbor or trellis. It can be grown in vertical shapes to create a privacy screen on porches, fences, arbors, walls, pillars, or verandas. But because it is a host plant for caterpillars, expect it to be raggedy looking when the caterpillars are feeding.
Reportedly, the flowers of this species emit an odor that attracts flies and gnats which aids pollination.
The plants of this genus contain a toxin known as aristolochic acid. Ingestion of any part of this plant may cause irreversible kidney failure. So don’t eat it, but you can add it to your Poison Garden.
It is a larval host for the Pipevine Swallowtail and Polydamas Swallowtail butterflies. They are immune to this poison in this particular species. Is pollinated by flies.
Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water. Low/no tolerance of salty wind or direct salt spray.
This plant in 1-gallon containers is trellised and 1-2′ tall.
Plant Lore: The genus name, Aristolochia, is the combination of two words. The Greek word, aristos, translated means ” best.” The Greek word, locheia, translated means “childbirth.” This refers to the flower’s structure resembling a human fetus. The species name, tomentosa, is Latin and means “covered with densely matted wooly hairs.” This refers to the wooly hairs on the leaf surfaces, blooms, and stems of the plant.
Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 10