Botany Photo of the Day
In science, beauty. In beauty, science. Daily.

January 18, 2017: Botany Photo of the Day is being actively worked on. Returning soon!

Aristolochia steupii

Aristolochia steupii
Aristolochia steupii

Bryant is the author of today's entry. He writes:

Thank you to Ingo of northern Germany for contributing today's photographs of Aristolochia steupii, a member of the Aristolochiaceae. Many members of the genus are commonly referred to as Dutchman's pipes, pipevines or birthworts. Aristolochia steupii is native to the thickets and woods of the Georgia portion (the country) of the South Caucasus.

Aristolochia is comprised of over five hundred species of woody vines (lianas) and herbaceous perennials. The flowers lack a corolla (ring of petals) and instead develop from an inflated and extended perianth consisting only of the calyx. The fruits form into dehiscent capsules containing many seeds.

Members of Aristolochia (often?) contain the carcinogenic aristolochic acid. Despite being listed as a Group 1 carcinogen, many members of Aristolochia have historically been used or are still being used in naturopathic medicine/ traditional Chinese medicine. Extracts from a few species of Aristolochia have been used as successful remedy for snakebites, where the compounds act by chemically deactivating the venom.


In the US members of the genus Aristolochia and many other members of the family Aristolochiaceae are banned by the FDA and are not used, whether the plant contains AA or not. A few species were historically used in Western-based herbalism throughout 20th century but most of the use comes from Asia.

Several of our (SE US) Aristolochias have been moved into new/old genera, i.e. Endodeca serpentaria, Isotrema macrophyllum, and Isotrema tomentosum. Based on Ohi-Toma, T., T. Sugawara, H. Murata, S. Wanke, C. Neinhuis, and J. Murata. 2006. Molecular phylogeny of Aristolochia sensu lato (Aristolochiaceae) based on sequences of rbcL, matK, and phyA genes, with special reference to differentiation of chromosome numbers. Systematic Bot. 31: 481-492.

Aristolochic acid is extremely dangerous for mammals and unfortunately there have been many Asians that have been poisoned by this material. Aristolochia are wonderful exciting plants in the landscape and as far as I know all of them have Aristolochic acid . They are to be admired but not chewed , smoked or otherwise imbibed in any form. Very dangerous problems can arise from intake of any Aristolochia . Best to keep children with inquiring hands and mouths away from them.

Strong notices aside , I have several Aristolochia chinensis and always delight when in full bloom. Outstanding , intriqueing flowers.

thank you all for the comments and the warnings
this page can be ever so helpful

if you google images on google you will find ever so
many pictures of ubc gardens and way down the page
daniel with group of botanists?

the gardens are lovely

What a great species. when I first saw the picture I thought it was a mistake...It looks surprisingly like a woodland ginger (Asarum spp.)

Love the Pictures and the plethora of valuable information!

My first thought when I saw the photos? THAT LOOKS poisonous! guess primal instinct is still intact. ;-)

Pipevines are host food for Pipevine Swallowtails. I found some research that indicates a sequestration of aristolochic acid which makes the insect unpalatable.
It's just the abstract but it is a start. I find the plant secondary compounds so fascinating.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research
6804 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4
Tel: 604.822.3928
Fax: 604.822.2016 Email:

Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC | © Copyright The University of British Columbia