Southern California: A giant among vines

Vines with flowers that smell like dead meat
Sharon Cohoon

Aristolochia gigantea is a tropical vine that produces one of the strangest flowers on the planet. Here's a bloom that looks more like a well-marbled steak than a flower; it is pollinated by flies, so it tricks them into thinking it's dead meat. Most flowers of this type smell rotten, but A. gigantea has a pleasant lemony fragrance. The vine's common name is giant Dutchman's pipe, but it has others too rude to mention.

The plant likes full sun or light shade and average watering and feeding. It can cover a large arbor. Or, since it blooms on new wood, it can be pruned fairly ruthlessly to contain. A. gigantea has a long bloom period but is at its eerie peak in late summer. Good sources for the vine are Buena Creek Gardens in San Marcos (760/744-2810) and Burkard Nurseries in Pasadena (626/796-4355).