Aristolochia gigantea
Common Name: pelican flower 
Type: Vine
Family: Aristolochiaceae
Native Range: Central and South America
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 15.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Burgundy with white veins
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Fragrant, Evergreen
Attracts: Butterflies
Other: Winter Interest


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12 where it may be grown in medium moisture, moderately fertile, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Avoid dry soils. This vine appreciates some part shade in hot inland areas. Prune if needed in late winter to early spring. It needs a support structure on which to climb. It will not survive outdoor temperatures that dip below 30 degrees F.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Aristolochia gigantea, commonly called Brazilian Dutchman’s pipe or giant pelican flower, is a fast growing woody evergreen twining climber of the birthwort family that produces in early summer unusually large apetalous flowers each having a pouch to 2’ long and 1’ across. Flowers are burgundy velvet netted with distinctive ivory white veins. Flowers purportedly resemble a Dutchman’s pipe, albeit a very large one. Flowers bloom summer to winter in their native territory. This vine will typically grow to 15-20’ long. Vines are clad with light green leaves to 6” long. Flowers are followed by papery capsules containing many seeds. This species is native to humid forested areas from Costa Rica and Panama to Brazil.

Flowers are pollinated by certain insects, primarily flies which are lured by a potent (some say nauseating) flower fragrance into entering the calyx via the parianth tube which is covered inside with one-way directional hairs which permit entry but deny exit. Each fly is temporarily trapped in the calyx, pollination occurs from pollen brought in on the body of the fly from prior visits to other pipevine flowers, the fly is dusted with new pollen, and the trapping hairs inside the parianth then relax allowing the fly to escape to visit other flowers. Pollinated flowers give way to cylindrical dehiscent seed capsules (to 4" long) containing flattened, rounded or winged seeds which ripen in late summer. Capsules open basipetally when ripe, releasing the seed for distribution by wind.

Although Aristolochia vines native to the U.S. are considered to be hosts for the pipevine swallowtail butterfly larvae, tropical vines such as this species have toxic leaves which are in reality a threat to this butterfly. Pipevine swallowtails lay their eggs on the foliage of genus plants, the eggs will hatch, and the tiny larvae will begin to crawl around the plants, voraciously eating the leaves, but the larvae typically die after about three days because the leaves of A. gigantean are simply too toxic.

Genus name comes from the Greek words aristos meaning best and locheia meaning childbirth or delivery in reference to the fact that plants of some species within this genus (1) have a flower structure which more closely resembles a human fetus in the womb than a pipe, and (2) served in the past as the source of ancient plant preparations used for treatment of pain and infections incident to childbirth.

Specific epithet comes from the Greek words leucos meaning white and neural meaning nerve in reference to the white-veined leaves.

Common name of pipevine is in reference to the shape of the flowers which purportedly resemble in appearance the meerschaum pipes once common in the Netherlands and northern Germany.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Where winter hardy, it needs a trellis, arbor or other structure on which to grow. Also can be grown in containers.