Monches Farm, LLC
5890 Monches Road
Dutchman's Pipe Vine (Aristolochia durior/macrophylla)
This fast growing woody vine bears a dense profusion of large heart shaped leaves that can quickly cover a large arbor or porch and provide a cool shaded retreat during the hot summer months. Its name comes from the appearance of its odd flowers, which were thought to resemble a pipe. The flowers are interesting but not readily visible as they tend to be hidden beneath the thick foliage. In the days prior to air conditioning it was popular to plant the large leaf, fast growing Dutchman Pipe Vine (Aristolochia macrophylla/durior) to climb over and shade outdoor porches. People would then sit on their porches in the evening, enjoying the shade and whatever breeze they could find outdoors as relief from the sweltering interior of the house. With the advent and increased popularity of air conditioning these evenings on the shaded front porch diminished and have now all but disappeared, and with them the Aristolochia vines.
The demise of the Dutchman's Pipe Vine led to another unforeseen disappearance - that of the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly.
Many immature butterflies (caterpillars) are very specific in their food requirements, often limiting their diet to a single Genus. This can threaten their numbers when that plant becomes difficult to find. The Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly is an example of this phenomenon. This butterfly relies solely on a single Genus (Aristolochia) as a food source in its larval stage. In this area it is now quite rare to see a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. We, however, do have them at Monches Farm because we have - tangling around the entire front of the shop - an Aristolochia vine*. The distinctive Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars leave large notches in the foliage and in some cases partially defoliate the plant. There have been times when it has been so heavily populated with larval Swallowtails that we’ve had to post signs explaining to distressed customers that YES, we DO want those ugly caterpillars as they will soon become exquisite butterflies !
* The Aristolochia vine that cloaks the front of our shop is a giant leaf variant of the species with leaves roughly 30% larger than those of the straight species. The plants we have for sale are the standard leaf form, whose mature leaves will be roughly 1/2 to 2/3 the size of our large leaf form.
At the Farm we also carry a second Aristolochia that goes by the common name Birthwort (Aristolochia clemat itis ) . This is a semi-upright perennial with heart shaped leaves much smaller than those of the Dutchman's Pipe Vine. It bears small yellow-green hooded flowers which are equally as peculiar as its cousin's. This plant takes its name from the fact that was historically used medicinally as an aid to childbirth. In recent years it has been found that this plant actually contains a toxic substance ( aristolochic acid) that can cause kidney failure if ingested and has contributed to many deaths through its misguided use as a medicine.