|Calico Flower (Aristolochia littoralis), about to open|
Description[change | change source]
The bizarre flowers are large to medium-sized, growing in the leaf axils. They are bilaterally or radially symmetrical.
Classification[change | change source]
Some newer classification schemes place the family Aristolochiaceae in the order Piperales.
Phytochemistry[change | change source]
Many members of Aristolochia and some of Asarum contain the toxin aristolochic acid, which defence against predators, in this case herbivores. It is known to be carcinogenic in rats. Aristolochia itself is carcinogenic to humans.
Ecology[change | change source]
Pipevine swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on pipevine (Aristolochia species), and the larvae dine on the plant but are not affected by the toxin, which then offers the adult butterfly protection against predators.