Aristolochia Pipevine Plants: Is Growing Darth Vader Flowers Possible

Image by Kristine Paulus

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

While the Internet abounds with pictures colorful photos of Aristolochia pipevine plants, most people will never have an opportunity to see this rare plant in its natural environment. However, picture the amazing, slightly sinister-looking blooms and you’ll understand why the plant deserves to be tagged as Darth Vader plant.

Aristolochia Pipevine Plant

Darth Vader plant (Aristolochia salvadorensis syn. Aristolochia Salvador platensis), a woody climber native to the humid meadows and soggy flood plains of Brazil, belongs to the Aristolochiaceae family of plants, which includes pipevines, birthworts and Dutchman’s pipe.

Like many plants that grow in challenging environments, the weird, corpse-like appearance of Darth Vader pipevine flowers is due to adaptations that ensure its survival. The helmet-like shape and purple coloration of the blooms, combined with the powerful aroma of rotting flesh, tends to attract insect pollinators.

Once enticed, insect visitors fly through the Darth Vader plant’s luminous “eyes.” The inside of the blooms are lined with sticky hairs that imprison the unfortunate guests long enough to cover them with pollen. They are then released to fly out and pollinate more blooms. Each bloom lasts only a single week.

If you want to see Darth Vader flowers, your best bet may be a greenhouse or botanical garden, such as Japan’s Kyoto Botanical Garden.

Growing Darth Vader Flowers

Can it be done? An Internet search will probably reveal a few online companies that specialize in rare and unusual seeds. You may be successful if you have your own greenhouse, or if you live in a warm, tropical or sub-tropical climate.

Growing Darth Vader flowers require partial sunlight and well-drained but consistently moist soil.

Once established, Darth Vader pipevine flowers are relatively easy to maintain and the vines grow rapidly. Prune severely if the vines becomes too rambunctious.

One thing is for certain…if you’re a fan of rare or quirky plants, or even a Star Wars fan, this is certainly a beautiful vine that will capture your interest.

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