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There are around 120 species of Aristolochia from the tropics and subtropics, most of which are woody vines or herbaceous perennials with heart-shaped leaves.

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Pelican flower produces enormous trumpet-shaped flowers, which smell of rotting meat and attract flies and wasps as its pollinators.

There are around 120 species of Aristolochia from the tropics and subtropics, most of which are woody vines or herbaceous perennials with heart-shaped leaves.

The extraordinary Aristolochia grandiflora, named in 1788 by Olof Swartz (1760-1818), has one of the largest flowers of any New World species and deserves its name 'grandiflora' (large flower). Each trumpet-shaped flower lasts for two days. On the first day it is in the female phase, attracting flies by its foul smell, similar to that of rotting meat. The flies are trapped by the downward facing hairs in the pouch of the flower to ensure pollination. On the next day, the flower changes to male phase and pollen is deposited on the pollinators, the odour disappears, the hairs wither and the insects are released.

Aristolochia grandiflora is cultivated as an ornamental. This and other species of Aristolochia are also grown as food plants for tropical swallowtail butterflies. Extracts of the whole plant are used by traditional healers in Colombia to treat snake bites. It is also used as an antibiotic.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Aristolochia grandiflora occurs naturally in the lowlands of southern Mexico to Panama and on Jamaica. It has been introduced elsewhere, including the southern United States as a food plant for swallowtail butterflies. It has also become naturalised in parts of Western Australia.

Description

Aristolochia grandiflora is a large, herbaceous climber with stems reaching 10 m or more. The leaves are broadly cordate (heart-shaped), smooth or downy. The flowers are tubular, ending in a wide heart-shaped mouth 10-20 cm across, with the point extended into a long tail up to 60 cm long. The flower is white, veined with brownish purple, but darker in the throat. It opens at dawn and gives off a foul smell that attracts pollinators, mostly flies and hornets. The flowers close again at dusk.

This species at Kew

Kew's specimen of the pelican flower in the Princess of Wales Conservatory produces enormous flowers. After heavy pruning in 2009, it flowered non-stop for five months.

Alcohol-preserved specimens of Aristolochia grandiflora are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. 

Kew's Economic Botany Collection includes samples of the roots and fruits of Aristolochia grandiflora .

The fruits were sent to Kew by William Bancroft Espeut from Jamaica, following a letter to Joseph Hooker where Bancroft Espeut described Aristolochia grandiflora as 'one of the most voracious insect destroyers'.

The samples are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment.

Distribution
Jamaica, Mexico
Ecology
Tropical forests, thickets, near streams and gullies.
Conservation
Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

Poisonous to humans and livestock.

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Nativa y cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 0 - 600 m.; Amazonia, Llanura del Caribe, Pacífico, Valle del Magdalena.
Habit
Trepadora
Conservation
No Evaluada

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[KSP]
Use
Ornamental, traditional medicine, food plant of tropical swallowtail butterflies.

Native to:

Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Nicaragua, Panamá, Trinidad-Tobago

Introduced into:

Bangladesh, Cuba, Jamaica, Leeward Is., Puerto Rico, Windward Is.

English
Pelican flower

Aristolochia grandiflora Sw. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Jan 1, 1968 s.coll. [s.n.] K000820424
Jan 1, 1968 s.coll. [s.n.] K000820425
Jan 1, 1968 s.coll. [s.n.] K000820426
Jan 1, 1968 s.coll. [s.n.] K000820427
18990.000
Sparrow, M. [114], Mexico 29047.831
s.coll. [s.n.] K000820428

First published in Prodr. Veg. Ind. Occ.: 126 (1788)

Accepted by

  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Villaseñor, J.L. (2016). Checklist of the native vascular plants of Mexico Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 87: 559-902.
  • Ibarra-Manríquez, G. & al. (2015). Lianas of Mexico Botanical Sciences 93: 365-417.
  • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012). Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies), ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Idárraga-Piedrahita, A., Ortiz, R.D.C., Callejas Posada, R. & Merello, M. (eds.) (2011). Flora de Antioquia: Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares 2: 1-939. Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín.
  • Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008). Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela: 1-859. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela.
  • Nelson Sutherland, C.H. (2008). Catálogo de las plantes vasculares de Honduras. Espermatofitas: 1-1576. SERNA/Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
  • Balick, M. J., M. H. Nee & D.E. Atha (2000). Checklist of the vascular plants of Belize Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 85: 1-246.
  • Govaerts, R. (1995). World Checklist of Seed Plants 1(1, 2): 1-483, 529. MIM, Deurne.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • The Plant List (2010). Aristolochia grandiflora.
  • Burgess, K. S., Singfield, J., Melendez, V. & Kevan, P.G. (2004). Pollination biology of Aristolochia grandiflora (Aristolochiaceae) in Veracruz, Mexico. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 91: 346-356.

    Herklots, G. (1976). Flowering Tropical Climbers. Dawson, Folkestone, & Science History Publications, New York.
  • Otero, R., Núñez, V., Barona, J. et al. (2000). Snakebites and ethnobotany in the northwest region of Colombia. Part III: Neutralization of the haemorrhagic effect of Bothrops atrox venom. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 73: 233-241.
  • Brummitt, R. K. & Powell, C.E. (1996). Authors of Plant Names. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Aguilar, M. I., Espejo, O. & Camacho, D. (1992). Chemical constituents of Aristolochia grandiflora. Fitoterapia 63: 275.
  • Adams, C. D. (1972). Flowering Plants of Jamaica. University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Villaseñor, J.L. (2016). Checklist of the native vascular plants of Mexico Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 87: 559-902.
  • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012). Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies), ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Balick, M. J., M. H. Nee & D.E. Atha (2000). Checklist of the vascular plants of Belize Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 85: 1-246.

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet http://www.kew.org/herbcat [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0