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Aristolochia watsonii

 
Aristolochia watsonii
Watson's pipevine
Aristolochia watsonii
Rambling across a mat of delosperma

Common name Watson's pipevine
Family aristolochiaceae
Life cycle perennial (Z8)
Flowers green/brown
Size 12"
Light sun-part shade
Cultural notes well drained soil, heat and drought tolerant

Low-growing pipevine species with dark purple, narrowly arrow-shaped leaves. The vines can grow up to 3 ft long, but tend to grow to form a mat rather than twine upward. Native to the U.S. Southwest, it is host to the pipevine swallowtail caterpillars, who have developed immunity to the plant's toxins. Curiously shaped flowers are pollinated by small flies, which explains why they smell musty rather than sweet. We bought a pot of this plant which turned out to have many plantlets, so we put it in a few places. The only place it survived is our rock garden, where it seems happy but not overly vigorous. It has taken to sending its trailing stems across other low-growing inhabitants of the area, most notably an ice plant with which it contrasts nicely.
For the first few years, there was no sign of any caterpillars, and I frankly wasn't surprised – if I were a butterfly I might look for a pipevine with more substantial leaves to feed my babies! But sure enough, one early-October day, I spotted a nice big caterpillar (on my smallest plant, no less). Ma Nature surprised me once again. Likewise, it took me a few years to spot my first flower (likely because it's not so different from the leaves when observed from some distance), although I'd noticed the seedpods, shaped like little hanging lanterns, on several earlier occasions.

Watson's pipevine
Flowers are not conspicuous, but quite interesting up close
Aristolochia watsonii
Seedpods spotted in early September
Watson's pipevine
A pipevine swallowtail caterpillar at last, early October 2021

In our garden, this plant grows in the following areas: Houston rock garden, rock garden zone

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Last modified: October 03, 2021
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