Aristolochia californica, California Pipevine

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Aristolochia californica

Extremely showy deciduous vine with striking magenta and olive-green flowers January through April, resembling meerschaum pipes. It is the obligate host plant of the California pipevine swallowtail butterfly. It likes to clamber through shrubs and trees in evergreen-mixed woodlands, or grow in thickets by rivers and creeks, (like Cache Creek in Yolo County), where the extra moisture in the soil allows it to grow in full sun.

The large lustrous green leaves give it a decidedly tropical appearance. It grows along the ground while looking for something to climb up, making an attractive ground-cover. The unusual appearance of the flowers and the large, pale green seed capsules, as well as the well-known relationship with the equally striking CA pipevine swallowtail butterfly, make this one of the most popular native vines.

Seed germination is what is called "erratic," in that it germinates over a long period of time, so be patient and keep watering the 4" pots (which we recommend sowing this large seed in). Some recommend cold stratification before sowing the seed, meaning to mix the seed into a plastic bag of vermiculite and peat, dampen till slightly moist, and refrigerate for two to three months. In our experience, this procedure is not necessary.