While staying at a friend’s place on the weekend, their 90 year old neighbour came over to trim one of his palm trees which had toppled into their yard. As he chopped away with his cuchilla (a large, machete type knife) the neighbour came upon a rare find. Locally referred to as the carnivorous plant, the Dutchman’s pipe vine of Costa Rica (Aristolochia grandiflora) has an exotic and foul smelling flower with a reputation for eating flies.
The flower blooms for just one day, so it was a bit of a treat to experience it in full blossom. They’re big whoppers too, growing up to 20cm in diameter.
Folklore notwithstanding, in fact the Dutchman’s pipe only lures flies into its innermost chamber in order to help with pollination.
“It is rumored that this plant is carnivorous, but it really only traps flies or other insects for one day. On the first day that it blooms, it smells like rotting flesh. This, and the maroon color of the flower, attract carrion loving flies who travel down the flower tube to where the receptive female parts are located.
They become trapped here by downward pointing hairs and slippery papillae. One the second day of flowering, the foul odor disappears as the hairs wilt and the entry way widens, and the flies escape, carrying pollen with them on the way out. They then enter a new flower, whose female parts are fertile on the first day of flowering, become trapped, pollinating the flower, escape the next day carrying pollen with them again.. and hence the process continues.” Source: MuchaCostaRica.com
Despite being an avid gardener and farmer, very knowledgeable and experienced with local flora, the elderly neighbour said he’d never before seen a carnivorous plant flowering, so I’m rather pleased that I can say I have.
The plant is said to be carcinogenic, so it’s not a good idea to have them growing near a vegetable garden or anywhere near food plants. I can’t vouch for that, but I can unreservedly confirm that it emits the malodour of rotting meat.