Recently there was a kind of open house at my granddad's house, who passed away a bit over 2 years ago. For a part of my life, I lived two doors down from my granddad. My brother and I would often stop in on the way to school, and on the way home, too. There were always Poptarts in Granddad's cupboard. I remember spending hours there, working on this project or that when I was a girl. Growing on the porch of the house is a vine called Dutchman's Pipe. We cousins (there were a lot of us!) called it Elephant Ears. We used to use those huge leaves for dinner plates when we pretended to have a meal, or as hats when we played dress up outside.

Sunlight Gardens gives this information about Dutchman's Pipe, aka Aristolochia macrophylla:

Aristolochia macrophylla, Dutchmans Pipe Vine

Dutchmans Pipe Vine Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8



Dutchmans Pipe is a common vine in moist southern Appalachian hardwood forests in coves and along stream banks easily twining 20 to 30 feet high. It has been popular as a porch screen for ages because it is fast growing, has large heart shaped leaves, and has odd little flowers. The two inch pale brownish purple flowers are pipe shaped or s-shaped with a widely flaring triangular "mouth" perfect for catching careless flies. The curious looking early summer flowers are borne sparsely among the wide leaves. Try it on a trellis for screening or let it ramble among shrubs and trees. It likes good moist soil and can take either shade or sun.




And so I intend to get my own Dutchman's Pipe and plant it at the base of a tree or a swingset or a trellis away from the house. The picture above is of the underside of the leaf - here's the top side. These are scans of an actual leaf from Granddad's house.


It's funny how a plant can become a symbol for childhood. I'm sure my cousins and siblings will have different things that are sharply etched in their memory of childhood visits to Granddad's house. I suspect this is one of the "passalong plants" that people would get a cutting from a neighbor and start in their own yards. It must have served as a way of keeping a house cool long before the air conditioner age. The plant at Granddad's house has been hacked down several times, but to no avail! The plant triumphs still.

"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden




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