manchurian_4.jpg
Credit: Carolyn Jones

The curious flowers of the Manchurian pipe vine (Aristolochia manshuriensis) hold a special appeal for tiny flies and gnats. The flowers have the ability to warm up, releasing an aroma of decomposing meat. Curious, insect visitors climb into the opening at the mouth of the flower, searching for a meal. It’s then a slippery slide into the swollen base of the flower, but their exit is blocked by backward-facing hairs. The insects’ unwitting role is to pollinate the flower, and once this has happened, the hairs wither, making escape possible! This genus has over 300 species, and the North American native Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla) is often grown in our gardens.