Home & Garden

New Front Yard: Pipevine supports butterflies

This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum “New Front Yard” series, 41 drought-tolerant and beautiful plants well adapted to our region.

California pipevine

Aristolochia californica

Size: Trailing woody vine, up to 20 feet.

Bloom season: Late winter and spring.

Pruning needs: Little or none; train stems up trellis to support.

Exposure: Full to partial shade.

Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.

Snapshot: Along the American River bike trail in Sacramento County or Putah Creek in Davis, you may have spotted this vine with unusual striped flowers that look very much like – you guessed it – pipes. It’s the California pipevine, a native plant to the Sacramento Valley that can climb up trees (or trellises) or form a dense groundcover in dry shade. Besides being a garden curiosity, the pipevine attracts butterflies. Its bright green foliage provides food for swallowtail butterfly larvae, in particular the black and blue Pipevine swallowtail. Although butterfly larvae feed on pipevine, the plant is toxic to people and pets. Aristolochia, the plant’s Latin name, means “best childbirth,” inspired by the fetal-like shape of the flowers. You can see specimens in the arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.

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More online

See photo galleries of the arboretum’s Community Favorites and Arboretum All-Stars at sacbee.com/home_garden.

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