Aristolochia magic

Happy birthday to Dunedin Botanic Garden, which officially turns 150 on June 30, although the party has been going on, and will go on, all year. If you’re in town, the fun starts at 11am on the tea kiosk lawn (fingers crossed for a nice day).

It’s our oldest botanic garden, by a whisker as Christchurch Botanic Gardens celebrate their 150th on July 9.

I put in a call to Tom Myers, botanical services officer with Dunedin City Council (which runs the garden), about a plant name this week – an Aristolochia I photographed in the Winter Garden earlier this year. He has kindly sent me a link to a story about Sue Wickison, a Wellington-based botanical illustrator, who has worked in the garden drawing the Aristolochias.

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Aristolochia littoralis at the Dunedin Botanic Garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Sue and two other artists have their work on show at the garden’s information centre from July 5-30 in the Delight in Detail exhibition.


Aristolochia cymbifera at Dunedin Botanic Garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

There are about 500 members of the Aristolochia vine family, according to Bizarre Botanicals, a book by Larry Mellichamp and Paula Gross (Timber Press, 2010). Aristolochia grandiflora can have flowers over 30cm long and 20cm wide. The flower has no petals, only sepals and is from the front is a soft-ish halo, although look quite different from the back and have the common name Dutchman’s pipe because of their shape (supposed to resemble a large-bowled smoking pipe).

The flowers emit a scent of rotting meat to attract flies as pollinators, although I can’t say I noticed anything out of the ordinary.

The clever people at Te Puna Quarry Park had one flower outdoors a few years ago, theirs was a different one again.