Our Plants


March 2013 Plant Highlight: Aristolochia californica

by Brian Kemble


One of our state’s floral oddities is the California Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica. This twining deciduous vine is native to Northern California’s Coast Ranges and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The common name refers to the unusual flowers, which are shaped like little meerschaum pipes or saxophones. They flower early in the year, in February and March, with the leaves emerging just after this. The flowers are an inch to an inch and a half long (2½ to 4 cm) and pale green in color, often with a flush of purple and with contrasting purplish-brown veins. The mouth has 3 lobes, one curling downward and 2 curling upward, and these match the color of the veins. The color of the mouth and veins is more intense on young flowers.

The flowers of Aristolochia californica are pollinated by tiny gnats, but this species is also host to its own butterfly, the Pipevine Swallowtail. The butterfly’s caterpillars feed on the vine’s leaves, and in the process ingest toxins to which they are immune. The toxins make them unpalatable to birds.

Aristolochia californicaAristolochia californica leaf


The leaves of Aristolochia californica are bright green and heart shaped, with an interesting texture. Their size varies, but they may be as much as 5 to 6 inches long (12½ to 15 cm).

The genus Aristolochia belongs to the family Aristolochiaceae. Though A. californica is the only species native to our state, there are many other species found in North America, South America, Asia and Europe.

Aristolochia californica


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Mission Statement
The mission of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is to preserve this exceptional example of garden design and to continue to develop its collection of water-conserving plants for the education and enjoyment of the public.  
Grant Funders

The Ruth Bancroft Garden would like to recognize the following grant funders:

The Quest Foundation for funding our Education Coordinator’s position

The Mervyn L. Brenner Foundation and The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust for funding our directional signs

The California Horticultural Society for funding towards our restoration projects

The Bonita Garden Clubfor funding restoration and education projects


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