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Published In: Species Plantarum 2: 960. 1753. (1 May 1753) (Sp. Pl.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 8/4/2017)
Acceptance : Accepted
Project Data     (Last Modified On 8/3/2009)


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1. Aristolochia L. (birthwort)

(Pfeifer, 1966)

Plants perennial herbs or lianas (shrubs elsewhere). Aerial stems well developed, sometimes twining. Leaves often appearing 2-ranked. Flowers zygomorphic, the calyx tube well developed, hooked or S-shaped, with an expanded ring of tissue at the juncture with the lobes. Stamens 6, the filaments fused with the style into a column, the anthers without a sterile extension between the pollen sacs. Ovary with 3 locules. Stigmas appearing as a low, irregular, 3-lobed crown at the tip of the stylar column. Fruits dehiscing longitudinally into 3 or 6 valves. About 300 species, nearly worldwide but most diverse in tropical and subtropical regions.

The sap of Aristolochia species is yellowish and tastes bitter. Various species have been investigated for the possible production of antitumor alkaloids and other compounds. These same compounds, including aristolochic acid and trimethylamine, have also been implicated as having carcinogenic properties. Bruised plant parts emit a faint, unpleasant odor similar to that of turpentine, whereas the flowers of some species sometimes emit an aroma similar to the scent of rotten meat. Pollination in most species is a complex affair involving small flies that become trapped overnight in the expanded basal chamber of the calyx tubes until stiff, downwardly pointing hairs in the narrower portion of the calyx tube relax, releasing the insect, which has been coated with pollen and departs to pollinate a second flower in similar fashion. The leaves of Missouri species are a principal larval food source for the eastern pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor philenor (L.)).


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1 1. Plants herbaceous perennials with erect or ascending stems ... 1. A. SERPENTARIA

Aristolochia serpentaria
2 1. Plants lianas with climbing, twining stems ... 2. A. TOMENTOSA Aristolochia tomentosa
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