Dangling from chartreuse vines, the flowers of Dutchmans’s Pipe, or Aristolochia californica, serve as a reminder of Nature’s unique gifts. As the sun sinks lower toward the horizon, shining its rays through the delicate orchid-like flowers, burgundy veins that look very much like those under our skin, stand out against the antique-yellow petals, creating a lantern-like effect.
Three years ago, I planted this California native under an arbor in my vegetable garden. Surprisingly, that same year, a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly chose our vine as a suitable nursery on which to lay her eggs. Within weeks, we had caterpillars feasting, sleeping and hanging out in our garden.
This year brought the first blooms! I discovered the delicate looking flowers when a friend was over for a visit. We had just finished lunch and were tooling around in the garden where he demonstrated how to properly prune my fruit trees when I spied the first tiny, dark green bloom. I’m pretty sure I startled my friend when I shrieked with joy. But if he was shocked, he didn’t let on. He just smiled and went on pruning.
Since that day, I walk to the garden regularly to check on the progress of the vine. Some flowers are tiny, just beginning their life’s journey while others are large and rather spent looking. Although I have heard that the Dutchman’s Pipe flowers can smell nasty due to the fact that they attract tiny insects into the “bowl” of the pipe, I have not detected an odor. Perhaps I am so caught up in the wonder of Nature’s creation, all I am aware of is the pure ecstasy her gifts bring.