Cairns birdwings mating




pronounced: a-riss-toh-lock-ee-AY-see-eye

the Dutchmen's pipe family


The family is named for the Aristolochia genus, whose name is derived from the Greek αριστο–(aristo-), best and λοχια (lochia), of childbirth, referring to the medicinal qualities of the plant in helping childbirth. Plants in this family are perennial herbs or lianas with typically broad leaves, alternate, simple, mostly entire, and red, purple or brown flowers tucked between the stem and the leaf petioles. The flowers are bisexual and have petal-like sepals that are sometimes maroon-coloured to imitate carrion. The fruit is a capsule, often opening from the base upward or, less often, indehiscent. There are numerous seeds, often flat.

The Aristolochiaceae have co-evolved with swallowtail butterflies (Papilionidae), whose larvae feed exclusively on members of the family. The larvae tolerate the aristolochic acids produced by the plants, but the poisonous chemicals deter their predators.


Photograph © Donald Simpson 2014