Monday, February 20, 2012


This family of plants has some beauties, and it's great fun to let this family name, Aristolochiaceae, roll off your tongue at parties - as if it didn't take long to learn:)  It's the Birthwort family.  In one source, I found that the name comes from the alleged property of aiding the birth process, as in inducing labor, and also speeding up menstruation.  Another source says that the name comes from the idea that the flowers resemble the birth canal.  I've also come across contradictory claims of its properties, ranging from lots of helpful medicinal properties to claims of toxic acids that cause kidney failure and claims that it's carcinogenic.  I'm still researching these claims and might want to discuss them further in a later post, but, for now, I think we can all agree these are beautiful flowers.  I photographed the four images of Dutchman's Pipe, AKA Pipevine, Aristolochia californica, yesterday in Chico's Upper Bidwell Park, about a half mile beyond the green gate.  The three images of Lemmon's Wild Ginger. Asarum hartwegii, last summer in Boyle Ravine, above Quincy Elementary School.
The Pipevine climbs on trees and shrubs, and at this time of year the blossoms are quite easy to see as the surrounding deciduous trees and shrubs still have no leaves.  The ginger, when it's in bloom, is predominantly a ground cover of large, heart-shaped (cordiform) leaves with the blossoms hiding beneath.  To see the blossoms, one must push some leaves aside.  It helps to know when they are blooming.  Besides Boyle Ravine, I've found another good patch of these near the beginning of the paved walkway at Feather River College, the one that leads from the main parking lot up to the main classroom buildings.

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