Yellowjackets munching Dutchman's Pipevine seed pods!

Dutchman's pipevine - Aristolochia californica

This year we had a bumper display of Dutchman's pipevine flowers. The vine shown above is growing up through a rambling rose.

This plant is the sole larval food of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly in our region (sole native larval food anyway), so gardeners are growing it in an attempt to create a butterfly "corridor." The Pipeline Swallowtail is not seen in Santa Cruz County any more due to lack of larval food. The plant has a toxin that makes the butterflies toxic (much like milkweed makes monarch's toxic to predators).

It's also a fun vine to grow. I've got several going rampant now, some sprawling along the ground. They seem to tolerate fairly dry conditions but prefer moisture and afternoon shade. Grow to fifteen feet or maybe a bit more when they ramble over the ground. They like narrow supports like wire (or rambling roses!) to grow up rather than a wood trellis.

Somehow, I had never noticed the very interesting seed pods on Dutchman's Pipevine before this year. (Or maybe last year, to be honest.) The one below is about two and a half inches long and quite solid.

And I'd and certainly not noticed what happens to them after splitting open, until today!

Yellow jackets were swarming all around, munching away inside the seed capsules. Below you can see the start of the munching. I believe it starts only after the seed capsule starts to split open at the bottom.

Below - This one has a few seeds inside. You can see the six chambers (carpels, I think in botanical terms).

The seeds are quite soft. So I wonder if they are also going into the yellow jackets' tummies.

I've put a net bag (the kind you put party favors in) over one to be sure I'll get some seed. Seeds need no pre-treatment, but I read in a forum that they can take up to three months to germinate.

Fun in the garden!


Byddi Lee said…
I love love love my Dutchman's Pipevine. Shade and drought tolerant! What a sterling combination. I've never noticed the seed pods before. You've motivated me to go out and take a look. I wonder does the action of the yellow jackets help the seeds disperse? Are they fully mature at this point and viable? The pods did look a little green and I'd imagine that a pod ready to disperse seeds would be papery and brown. Very interesting post.
Country Mouse said…
Thanks, Byddi -- It could be that since the pods were just starting to split, the seeds were still a little immature. The one I brought in, the one that was just a little split open at the bottom, dried up really quickly, though, in a matter of a day or less. It split all the way open and the seeds dried up. I'm still not sure if the wasps munched the seeds, but I suspect they might well have.

Just popped out to check - none of the green ones has split lately. Even though we had temps into the low nineties yesterday!
I agree, it's a wonderful plant for me too!