DUTCHMAN'S PIPE PIPEVINE
(Aristolochia macrophylla; A. Sipho of Gray))
Flower - An inflated, curved, yellowish-green, veiny tube
(calyx), pipe-shaped, except that it abruptly broadens beyond the
contracted throat into 3 flat, spreading, dark purplish or
reddish-brown lobes; pipe 1 to 1 1/2 in. long, borne on a
drooping peduncle, either solitary or 2 or 3 together, from the
bracted leaf-axils; 6 anthers, without filaments, in united pairs
under the 3 lobes of the short, thick stigma. Stem: A very long,
twining vine, the branches smooth and green. Leaves: Thin,
reniform to heart-shaped, slender petioled, downy underneath when
young; 6 to 15 in. broad when mature. Fruit: An oblong, cylindric
capsule, containing quantities of seeds within its six sections.
Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist woods.
Flowering Season - May-June.
Distribution - Pennsylvania, westward to Minnesota, south to
Georgia and Kansas. Escaped from cultivation further north.
After learning why the pitcher plant, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and
skunk cabbage are colored and shaped as they are, no one will be
surprised on opening this curious flower to find numbers of
little flies within the pipe. Certain relatives of this vine
produce flowers that are not only colored like livid, putrid meat
around the entrance, but also emit a fetid odor to attract
carrion flies especially. (See purple trillium.)
In May, when the pipe-vine blooms, gauzy-winged small flies and
gnats gladly seek food and shelter from the wind within so
attractive an asylum as the curving tube offers. They enter
easily enough through the narrow throat, around which fine hairs
point downward - an entrance resembling an eel trap's. Any pollen
they may bring in on their bodies now rubs off on the sticky
stigma lobes, already matured at the bottom of a newly opened
flower, in which they buzz, crawl, slide, and slip, seeking an
avenue of escape. None presents itself: they are imprisoned. The
hairs at the entrance, approached from within, form an
impenetrable stockade. Must the poor little creatures perish? Is
the flower heartless enough to murder its benefactors, on which
the continuance of its species depends? By no means is it so
shortsighted! A few tiny drops of nectar exuding from the center
table prevent the visitors from starving. Presently the
fertilized stigmas wither, and when they have safely escaped the
danger of self-fertilization, the pollen hidden under their lobes
ripens and dusts afresh the little flies so impatiently awaiting
the feast. Now, and not till now, it is to the advantage of the
species that the prisoners be released, that they may carry the
vitalizing dust to stigmas waiting for it in younger flowers.
Accordingly, the slippery pipe begins to shrivel, thus offering a
foothold; the once stiff hairs that guarded its exit grow limp,
and the happy gnats, after a generous entertainment and snug
protection, escape uninjured, and by no means unwilling to repeat
the experience. Evidently the wild ginger, belonging to a genus
next of kin, is striving to perfect a similar prison. In the
language of the street, the ginger flower does not yet "work"
its.visitors "for all they are worth."
Later, when we see the exquisite dark, velvety, blue-green,
pipe-vine, swallow-tail butterfly (Papilio philenor) hovering
about verandas or woodland bowers that are shaded with the
pipe-vine's large leaves, we may know she is there only to lay
eggs that her caterpillar descendants may find themselves on
their favorite food store.
The VIRGINIA SNAKEROOT or SERPENTARY (A. serpentaria), found in
dry woods, chiefly in the Middle States and South, although its
range extends northward to Connecticut, New York, and Michigan,
is the species whose aromatic root is used in medicine. It is a
low-growing herb, not a vine; its heart-shaped leaves, which are
narrow and tapering to a point, are green on both sides, and the
curious, greenish, S-shaped flower, which grows alone at the tip
of a scaly footstalk from the root, appears in June or July.
Sometimes the flowers are cleistogamous (see violet wood-sorrel).
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