Dutchman’s pipe is a fast-growing vine that can reach 3 m in length. The common name arose from the distinctive flowers that are shaped like a traditional Dutchman’s pipe. These flowers are strikingly coloured reddish-purple and marked with white and yellow. Leaves are up to 75 mm long, glossy green and heart-shaped, growing closely to form a dense mat of foliage. The woody stems are slender and twine tightly in coils around any supporting structure.
Native to South America (i.e. Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Argentina).
This species is naturalised in the eastern parts of Australia, where it is relatively widespread. It is common in the coastal districts of southern and central Queensland, scattered in the coastal areas of northern Queensland, and sparingly naturalised in the north-eastern corner of New South Wales (i.e. near Casino). Also naturalised on Christmas Island. Widely naturalised in the tropical regions of the world (e.g. Zimbabwe, South Africa, Hawaii, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Fiji, the Cook Islands and south-eastern USA).
Dutchman’s pipe is an environmental weed that is widely promoted as an unusual, easily cultivated ornamental plant. It is a popular novelty in gardens and suburban backyards and has naturalised in several areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales. As an environmental weed, Dutchman’s pipe has a preference for moist,
fertile soils making it a prime invader of rainforest habitat. Dutchman’s pipe is similar to the natives Pararistolochia praevenosa (formerly known as Aristolochia praevenosa) and Aristolochia acuminata (formerly known as Aristolochia tagala), which are natural food plants for a number of Australian butterflies. Dutchman’s pipe however is a deadly alternative, tricking butterflies into laying their eggs on its leaves, and then poisoning the larvae when they hatch and begin to feed. The survival of the rare Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia) is threatened by this occurrence. Never plant this species in your garden. Consider using the native species in your garden instead.
Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans) is regarded as an environmental weed in Queensland and New South Wales, and as a potential environmental weed or “sleeper weed” in many other regions of Australia. It is of most concern in south-eastern Queensland, and it was recently ranked among the top 50 most invasive plants in this
region. It is also regarded as a potentially serious environmental weed in north-eastern New South Wales. Like many other species of exotic vines, Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans) competes with and replaces native plants via its smothering growth. It readily invades dry rainforests, lowland rainforests and riparian vegetation, replacing native vines and preventing the growth and regeneration of other native plants. Community groups are trying to eradicate this plant from several environmentally significant locations in Queensland (e.g. in Burleigh Heads National Park). However,
Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans) is more well known for its impact on the Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia). This butterfly is listed as a vulnerable species under Queensland legislation and the invasion of remnant habitat by Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans) is a serious contributing factor to its decline. Birdwing vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa), a similar plant that is native to northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, is the sole food plant of the Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia). This native vine is being replaced by Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans) making it hard for the female adult butterflies to find. Because the exotic vine is so similar, the female butterflies are also fooled into laying their eggs on it. However, Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans) is toxic to the larvae and when they hatch they are unable to feed and eventually perish. Therefore, removal of this weed is one of the primary strategies of the Richmond Birdwing Recovery Network. The larvae of other native butterflies are also known to perish on Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans), including the big greasy (Cressida cressida) and the red-bodied swallowtail (Pachlopta polydorus).
Manual removal may be the only suitable method of control available for this weed. Small plants can be pulled or dug out, ensuring that the crown and the roots are removed. Vigorous growth may be cut down using a brush hook or other such tool, preferably before seeds set. Trace vines to their main crown and cut with a knife well below this growing point, removing all parts of the plant from the soil. The plant can be controlled with a herbicide. Declaration details