Aristolochia pubera

stinking aristolochia


Aristolochia pubera var. pubera

R.Br. 1810

pronounced: a-riss-toh-LOCK-ee-un PEW-ber-uh

(Aristolochiaceae — the Dutchman's pipe family)


common name: stinking aristolochia

native 4Aristolochia is derived from the Greek αριστο (aristo), best and λοχια (lochia), of childbirth, referring to the medicinal qualities of the plant in helping childbirth; pubera is from the Latin puber, adult, pubescent, hairy.

Aristolochia is a genus of evergreen and deciduous lianas and herbaceous perennials. The smooth stem is erect, or sometimes twining. The simple leaves are alternate and cordate, membranous, and without stipules.

The flowers have a specialized pollination mechanism. The plants are aromatic, and their strong scent attracts insects. The inner part of the perianth tube is covered with hairs, acting as a fly trap. These hairs then wither to release the fly, which is by now covered with pollen.

This Australian native occurs in the Northern Territory, Cape York Peninsula, and north-east Queensland as far south almost to Rockhampton. Its altitudinal range is from near sea level to about 350 m. It often grows in open forest, but also occurs in monsoon forest and vine thickets. The plant photographed was on the walking track between Nelly Bay and Alma Bay.

It is a slender prostrate or twining herb whose stem does not exceed 2 cm in diameter, with a perennial rootstock and annual aerial parts. The leaves are more-or-less distichous, arranged in two ranks, one each side of the twig. The leaf blades are from about 2.5 – 10 cm in length and 2 – 6.5 cm in width, on petioles up to about 4.5 cm long. Both petioles and twigs are covered in short pale hairs. The leaves vary in shape from obovate, lyrate or oblong to linear – if linear, there is a cordate base with rounded lobes. On the underside of the leaf blades there are hairs along the major veins. On the upper surface of the leaf the veins are depressed. The stems are more-or-less hexagonal in cross-section. When the leaves are crushed, they emit an odour that many people find obnoxious, hence the common name.

The solitary flowers are more-or-less horizontal, with the perianth curved and sinuous. The tube ends in a lip and in a long more-or-less linear lobe. There are 6 stamens, fused together around the style; the anthers are sessile; there are 6 stigmas, and the ovary is 6-locular. There are numerous ovules in each of the locules.

The fruit is a capsule about 15 – 18 mm long: after dehiscing it rather resembles a parachute. There are numerous seeds, cordate in outline.

There is a second variety, var. aromatica, but this is found only in the Mt Mulligan, Mt Pinnacle and Stannary Hills area. It is distinguished from var. pendula by dense multicellular hairs on both leaf surfaces, and numerous glands on the lower leaf surface. It grows in open woodland and vine thickets.

This is a food plant for the larval stages of the Big Greasy Butterfly (Cressida cressida).


Photographs taken 2019, Alma Bay to Nelly Bay walking track

Page last updated 13th August 2019