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XYZ

Aristolochia salvadorensis - The "Darth Vader Flower"

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XYZ

I could have sworn I posted some info and photos on this species on the IPS forum many years ago but can’t find any reference to it in the search feature here. I did do a long piece on Greg Asbagh’s old site, Spectre’s Jungle/Tropicsphere, about a decade ago so if it seems familiar it was probably there you saw it. I am propagating it in California now, so since I have to water a bunch of potted saplings it has recently been on my radar again.

Several large plant families are known for having disproportionately high numbers of species with whimsical, bizarre or even grotesque-looking flowers. Orchids, dogbanes and aroids come immediately to mind. But for the highest percentages of the family with straight up, “WTF?!”-looking blooms, the Aristolochiaceae for sure takes win, place and show.

Aristolochia salvadorensis is a rare and localized small tropical forest understory tree that occurs at low and intermediate elevations of southeastern Guatemala and western El Salvador. It's flowers are - how shall we say? - "different". Made famous (infamous?) online a few years back as the “Dark Vader Flower” Aristolochia “Salvador Platensis” (really!) or my own “Space Invaders”, the dark, rather sinister-looking and almost toad-like flowers make for one weird tropical garden denizen. They are found mostly in warm, wet forests at lower elevations but I’ve also found them as high as ~900 m/2,925’ in premontane cloud forest on Volcan Tecuamburro in Guatemala. They grow to about 3.30 m/11’ tall but can be kept as very manageable bush through judicious pruning. Once established, they flower prolifically from corky basal stems and can form large flowering clumps over time. The foliage is quite attractive and has a fine, reticulated vein pattern visible on older leaves. Reminds me a lot of some Inga spp.

I brought some F2 seed up from my garden plants in Guatemala some years ago and distributed them to a couple US botanical gardens on both coasts as well as a few friends abroad. I believe this was the first introduction of this tree to US horticulture. You have to be very observant and quick when waiting on fruit to ripen on these trees since they (mostly) lay on the ground, are myrmecochorous and the conspicuous, elaiosome-coated seeds will be raided by ants immediately if there are any around (and when aren’t there ants around?).

There are several other closely-related arborescent spp. in southeastern Mexico and other parts of Guatemala, most notably the rarer and even crazier-looking A. tricaudata from eastern Oaxaca and Chiapas and the commonly-cultivated butterfly garden staple, A. arborea from the Caribbean and Gulf coast rainforests of both countries.

My greenhoused trees in my permanent collection in California are the product of more than a dozen years of line breeding started from outstanding wild-collected stock hand-collected by me way back when. I left a number of larger trees growing in private collections in Guatemala.

This species is of relatively easy pot culture under intermediate to warm tropical conditions, but can handle brief spells of overnight low temperatures at least into the 7s C/mid-40s F with no visible damage. Recent experience here shows that exposed, newer foliage will partially blast in bright light at over 38 C/100 F. Probably a safe bet for sheltered gardens in South Florida and parts of coastal SoCal…obviously would easy throughout much of Hawaii and tropical Asia.

Some flower portraits

5968e0751a6e9_Aristolochiasalvadorensisf

5968e0a66108c_Aristolochiasalvadorensede

 

5968e0f3ddb82_AristolochiasalvadorensisV

Nearly mature fruit

5968e135acb3e_Aristolochiasalvadorensisf

Goblins, laddies!

5968e5363d630_AristolochiasalvadorensisG

 

A photo taken in summer of 2014 of one of my trained garden trees in Guatemala visible in the lower center. There are some other interesting things that I planted in the forested ravine in the background that will be recognizable to a sharp-eyed observer; Devil's hand tree (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon - center top), tree daisy (Montanoa guatemalensis - background right), wild avocado (Persea donnell-smithii - foreground right), bamboo palm (Chamaedorea quezalteca/costaricana - mid center), Heliconia collinsiana - left edge and albovariegated Monstera deliciosa - bottom right.

5968e19d7a171_Aristolochiasalvadorensisg

New foliage on a young greenhoused tree

5968e58c0b776_Aristolochiasalvadorensisf

 

One of the branch-cut saplings I'm propagating now on a greenhouse bench in San Francisco.

5968e2046f342_A.salvadorensissapling.thu

 

Cheers,

Jay

 

 

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Jdiaz31089

Wonderful work Jay. I never knew there were arborescent species in the genus aristolochia.

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Gonzer

Stoney, aside from the fact that it is a gorgeous plant (love the genus) I have a question; The petal colors have the same coloration as fly-pollinated genera. Does it have a GodawfulpeeYoo scent to it also?

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XYZ

Thanks, Gonz.

No, more 'shroom-scented, if memory serves. Musty maybe, but certainly not offensive.

See you're part of photobucket's long collateral damage list. Thank the Lord I stopped posting to fora that need hosted images and I kept the originals on my PC. Lessons foor all of us about "freebies" in the cloud.

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Gonzer
12 hours ago, stone jaguar said:

Thanks, Gonz.

No, more 'shroom-scented, if memory serves. Musty maybe, but certainly not offensive.

See you're part of photobucket's long collateral damage list. Thank the Lord I stopped posting to fora that need hosted images and I kept the originals on my PC. Lessons foor all of us about "freebies" in the cloud.

I forgot to download my stuff off of PB. Just finished and deleted account. That place had become a joke! $99 ???

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Josue Diaz

I was in El Salvador last November and came across several of these on our property. Lovely little surprise! 

 

20171129_073928.jpg

20171129_073907.jpg

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XYZ

Nice find. They can be locally very common, in SE Guatemala, but are considered to be a threatened sp in El Salvador. It has some us in local traditional medicine but, like most birthworts, should probably be approached with caution when served so.

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Botanicus

Aristolochia philipinensis is another shrubby non-vine  species.

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Carlos moran

Hello Jay, 

wonderful material, nice work.

 I am from El Salvador and I remember this plant we had it growing in my mom's garden, i found it bizarre but beautiful.

unfortunately the plant is not longer in the garden, i have been trying to find seeds or cuttings, and you mentioned that you're from the bay area, i live in San Jose CA.

I Wonder if you have seeds or plants for sale ?

thanks, 

 

carlos. 

 

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Darold Petty

Carlos, Welcome to Palmtalk !!  :)

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Codyplantguy

I'd love to buy one but cant find them. Is anyone willing to sell or give one.

 

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