Aristolochia grandiflora

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Pelican Flower
Aristolochia grandiflora-IMG 4616.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Piperales
Family: Aristolochiaceae
Genus: Aristolochia
Species: A. grandiflora
Binomial name
Aristolochia grandiflora
Vahl, 1791

Aristolochia grandiflora, or Pelican Flower, is a deciduous vine with one of the world's largest flowers that emits an odor that smells like rotting meat, which attracts flies.

Detail of Pelican Flower with pollinators

Description[edit]

Aristolochia grandiflora produces large solitary flowers from cordiate leaf axils. Leaves can be up to 25 cm wide. Flowers are heart shaped: 10–20 cm wide and have tails that are up to 60 cm long. The flower is green/white with purple/brown veins. The center of the flower is darker colored, which attracts pollinators along with a distinctive odor to its reproductive elements. The flower has three sections, utricle, tube and limb, characteristic to all Aristolochiaceae.[1]

Distribution[edit]

The plant is native to the Caribbean and Central America, and has been introduced to Florida in the United States as an attractor of butterflies. It is found in tropical forests near streams and gullies.

Reproduction[edit]

A. grandiflora is pollinated by breeding flies attracted by an odor produced from the flower. The odor is a combination of essential oils (geraniol[2] ). Flies travel down the tubular part of the flower to the utricle where the reproductive organs are found. The tube is lined with trichomes that direct the fly down to the utricle and prevent the fly from moving out. The reproduction contains three main phases. The first phase, the fly carrying pollen from other flowers pollinates the carpel. During the second phase, the stamen mature releasing pollen on the fly. This phase lasts one day. While trapped inside the flower, the fly eats nectar produced along the walls of the utricle. The trichomes then are signaled to wither, allowing for the fly to escape. The entire reproductive process lasts two days before flower senescences and abscises in the third phase.[3]

Uses[edit]

A. grandiflora has been used for ornamental purposes, food source, and in traditional medicine. This species contains many different alkaloids (bisbenzylisoquinolinic and 8-benzylberberinic)[4] which aid in chemical defenses against insects and plant microbes.[5] A. grandiflora is a food source for swallowtail butterfly larvae. These butterflies become unpalatable to predators when they consume the terpenes in this plant. Pharmaceutical research is being done on these compounds for anti-inflammatory for arthritis, neuro-protective for Parkinson’s Disease, and antimycobacterial.[6] Alkaloids from this species act as a disinfectants and have been used to cure snakebites. The entire plant of A. grandiflora contains compounds that repel snakes and deactivate snake venoms.[7] Essential oils are found in the stems and roots (α-Phellandrene and linalool), in the leaves (germacrene D and γ-elemene) and in the stem and flower (trans-Nerolidol and geraniol).[8] However, the use of this plant poses a risk, as it contains the toxin Aristolochic acid, which is carcinogenic. The USDA has banned all products containing this compound.[9]

Other species[edit]

Other species of Aristolochia are also called "pelican flowers"; e.g. A. gigantea (Giant Pelican Flower) and A. nana (Tiny Pelican Flower).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Trujillo, C. G.; A. N. Sersic (25 July 2005). "Floral biology of Aristolochia argentina (Aristolochiaceae)". Flora 2001: 374–382. 
  2. ^ Holzbach, Juliana C.; Lopes, Lucia M. X. (21 December 2010). "Aristolactams and Alkamides of Aristolochia gigantea". Molecules 15 (12): 9462–9472. doi:10.3390/molecules15129462. 
  3. ^ Trujillo, C. G.; A. N. Sersic (25 July 2005). "Floral biology of Aristolochia argentina (Aristolochiaceae)". Flora 2001: 374–382. 
  4. ^ Holzbach, Juliana C.; Lopes, Lucia M. X. (21 December 2010). "Aristolactams and Alkamides of Aristolochia gigantea". Molecules 15 (12): 9462–9472. doi:10.3390/molecules15129462. 
  5. ^ Maiti, M.; G. S. Kumar (27 September 2007). "Molecular aspects on the interaction of protoberberine, benzophenanthridine, and aristolochia group of alkaloids with nucleic acid structures and biological perspectives". Medicinal Research Reviews 17 (5): 649–95. doi:10.1002/med.20087. PMID 16894530. 
  6. ^ Holzbach, Juliana C.; Lopes, Lucia M. X. (21 December 2010). "Aristolactams and Alkamides of Aristolochia gigantea". Molecules 15 (12): 9462–9472. doi:10.3390/molecules15129462. 
  7. ^ Otero, R; Núñez, V; Barona, J; Fonnegra, R; Jiménez, SL; Osorio, RG; Saldarriaga, M; Díaz, A (Nov 2000). "Snakebites and ethnobotany in the northwest region of Colombia. Part III: neutralization of the haemorrhagic effect of Bothrops atrox venom.". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 73 (1-2): 233–41. doi:10.1016/s0378-8741(00)00321-4. PMID 11025161. 
  8. ^ Holzbach, Juliana C.; Lopes, Lucia M. X. (21 December 2010). "Aristolactams and Alkamides of Aristolochia gigantea". Molecules 15 (12): 9462–9472. doi:10.3390/molecules15129462. 
  9. ^ Heinrich, M; Chan, J; Wanke, S; Neinhuis, C; Simmonds, MS (Aug 17, 2009). "Local uses of Aristolochia species and content of nephrotoxic aristolochic acid 1 and 2--a global assessment based on bibliographic sources.". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 125 (1): 108–44. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.05.028. PMID 19505558. 

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