Shady porches are magical places, and a great vine for shade is Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla). This old-fashioned favorite, native to eastern North American woods, is cultivated by porch dwellers for its rapid growth and dense foliage. Odd little flowers, shaped like Dutch pipes, give the plant its common name, but they’re mostly hidden by the heart-shaped, hostalike leaves that provide cool, deep shade for rocking chairs. The leaves have another purpose, too: They provide food for the caterpillars of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly. If you plant this vine now, it’ll be covering a good part of your porch when next summer’s heat hits.
Common name: Dutchman’s pipe
Botanical name: Aristolochia macrophylla
Plant type: Deciduous perennial vine
Zones: 4 to 8
Height: 15 to 30 feet
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Average, well-drained
• Moisture: Average to moist
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed. Can cut back in late winter to control growth.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed, division, or cuttings
Pests and diseases
• Not generally vulnerable to pests.
• Root rot, gray mold, and leaf spot can be problems.
• Dutchman’s pipe makes a great screen. It grows on trellises, walls, fences, and arbors. It’s a twining vine, so it climbs posts and pillars, too.
• This vine is vigorous and dense. It needs strong support.
• When pipevine swallowtail caterpillars feed on A. macrophylla, they ingest aristolochic acid from the leaves. This acid makes them distasteful to birds.
All in the family
• Several vines are called dutchman’s pipe, including A. macrophylla’s close North American relative, A. tomentosa (also called wooly dutchman’s pipe). The South American A. littoris (also known as A. elegans) is also sometimes called dutchman’s pipe, as well as calico flower. Be aware, though, that this species is not food for pipevine swallowtail larvae—in fact, it kills them.
• There are 300 to 400 species in Aristolochiaceae, the birthwort family. Another genus in the family that gardeners may be familiar with is Asarum—the wild gingers.
Where to buy
• A Nearly Native Nursery, Fayetteville, GA, 770-460-6284, www.nearlynativenursery.com
• Brushwood Nursery, Kennett Square, PA, 610-444-8083, www.gardenvines.com
• Romence Gardens & Greenhouses, Grand Rapids, MI, 888-907-5268, www.romencegardens.com
(Photo of Aristolochia macrophylla courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)