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Aristolochia of the World
Hello and Welcome to my homepage aristolochia.org !
Bizarre plants have been fascinating me for more than 10 years. The genus
is distributed across 6 continents and has evolved in an astonishing variability of flowers, habits and sizes.
Here I present various species from all around the world as well as my personal collection.
I have assembled the generic subtaxa according to the current taxonomic classification into the three subfamilies Aristolochia, Pararistolochia and Siphisia.
The portraits and subpages will be updated regularly as new photos are presented.
Any Aristolochia supporter interested in this genus is welcome to fill in the contact form at the bottom of this page and get in touch.
Dive in and enjoy the peculiar world of the birthworts!
I'm open to any questions, recommendations and corrections. The webpage is under continuous construction and will be supplemented with new infos regularly.
The genus Aristolochia consists of a labyrinth of subgenera, sections, series and species' complexes evolved in a long evolutionary history.
Due do radiation, extinction, new diversification and hybridization these plants have conquered almost every spot in the world except for the Arctic regions, occupying extremely diverse habitats and displaying a huge variability of flowers, habits and sizes.
From herbs no more than 10 cm in diameter across scramblers, lithophytes, shrubs, trees to tropical climbers and lianas reaching dozens of metres into the canopy - Aristolochia have to offer something to amaze everybody!
Although being so variable and scattered around the globe all species share one distinctive floral feature which is the typical pitcher trap. Considering this as a stable characteristic it appears reasonable to group them as a single world-wide genus instead of splitting them up into several smaller genera.
About Me &
About this site
I'm Dominik Frank from Germany, enthusiastic and interested in everything related to Aristolochia about which I have been collecting a huge amount of information during the last decade.
My personal area of interest focuses on the taxonomy and the complex germination process of this genus. Aristolochia seem to have evolved some very specialized mechanisms in order to manage their survival although often being much less competitive or even out-competed in distracted or outbalanced habitats.
Especially many non-tropical species seem to require different complex stimuli to enhance or even activate the germination process.
I love to share and exchange knowledge on these fascinating plants with everyone interested.
This website has been generated to the best of my knowledge, contents verified and thoroughly checked. Nevertheless, no responsibility is taken for the validity, integrity and timeliness of the information provided.
This webpage aims to inform and provide an overview about the most diagnostic species of this large and widespread genus. The information provided here is derived from the best of my personal knowledge and experience, though under continuous construction. I appreciate all kinds of comments, criticism, reviews and suggestions.
Many dear friends, colleagues and collaborators have contributed extensively over many years to supplement and improve the content of this site. I extend my gratitude to
Henk van der Meulen
Suzanne van der Laan
Yasiel Hernández Rivero
Copyright applies to the entire content of this website including pictures, texts and documents. The saving, imprint, transmission or a commercial use (including excerpts) is not permitted without a written consent of me and/or the holder of rights of the respective content, if applicable.
As it accounts to probably any passionate botanist I am excited to come in contact with other people fascinated by these odd plants as well.
Maybe you want to leave a comment, a recommendation or corrections regarding my homepage?
Or you may be interested getting in touch and exchange knowledge, impressions, photos, etc. ?
Then please fill in this contact form here and I shall come back to you as soon as possible.
I am able to converse in German, English and Spanish.
All Aristolochia species make use of complex pitfall traps with a fyke-like mechanism, stiff trichomes ('hair') leading the insect easily inside the flower but preventing them from escape . Although quite a number of species display striking similarities to genera of carnivorous plants, the genus Aristolochia itself is not carnivorous at all.
In fact, these plants lure and trap insects for their survival, namely to pollinate their flowers for reproduction. Many species have adapted to very specialized pollinators.
In a few cases, this coevolution has evolved to such tight relationships for some species that if the respective insect is missing or goes extinct the affected Aristolochia species will follow as well.
In any case the insects are not harmed at all, they will be captivated in the flower for some days and released in a complex mechanism as soon as the anthers open or the flower is pollinated (stiff trichomes weaken in that process).
While many plant species enjoy great popularity for ornamental aspects, medical properties or other valuable features, however, respective health risks often are not considered as cautiously or known at all yet.
Plants conquered emerged land earlier than any other living organism and have been subject to a vast amount of predators throughout their evolutionary history as being rather low-rated on the food chain. Therefore it is not really a surprise the strongest organic toxins worldwide are produced by plants.
As an interested, thoughtful and prudent enthusiast it surely belongs to my duty to communicate potential health risks arising from non-attentive cultivation of this plant family as well.
Aristolochia species contain a wide variety of bitterns, odorants, alkaloids, etc. (as most plants do) but one particular component has been object of investigations in various contexts: Aristolochic acids (AA).
This chemical is considered the most important concerning the former reputation for its medical properties (childbirth, diarrhea, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, arthritis, edema, even snakebites and many more) - so many important features, even the generic name Aristolochia can be translated to "the best for childbirth".
Although most of these positive aspects could indeed be verified one big contrarious factor needs to be taken into account: AA proved to be a potent mutagen and carcinogen, being especially toxic to liver and kidneys which is the rightly reason for all medicines and treatments containing AA to be banned in western countries.
The highest AA amounts (up to 1 %) seem to be found in the roots, whereas seeds (~ 0,5%) and leaves (< 0,1%) contain lower doses.
Although AA is an organic macromolecule, badly soluble in water and one could argue an efficient uptake via skin is questionable concerning its chemical properties, AA still is not sufficiently investigated yet and the safety under cultivation conditions depends on your own cautiousness of course.
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