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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Wednesday - August 15, 2012

From: Fitchburg, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Wildlife Gardens
Title: Dutchman's pipe vine dying in Fitchburg ME
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have 2 dutchmans pipe vines they have been growing for over 20 years. Now all of a sudden the foliage is wilting and dying. The other one is completely fine. What would cause this?

ANSWER:

There are five species of the genus Aristolochia in our Native Plant Database, but none appear to be native to Maine.Since yours have been growing for over 20 years in Maine, obviously they know something we don't.

The five species are:

Aristolochia californica (California dutchman's pipe) - native only to California

Aristolochia coryi (Cory's dutchman's pipe) - native only to Texas

Aristolochia pentandra (Marsh's dutchman's pipe)- Florida and Texas

Aristolochia reticulata (Texas dutchman's pipe) - Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas

Aristolochia tomentosa (Common dutchmanspipe) - From this USDA Plant Profile, you will note that this one is the most widely spread in North America and comes as close to Maine as Vermont and New York. So, this is the one we will research on and, hopefully, find the cause of your problem. Follow this plant link to our webpage on the plant.

You no doubt already know that this is a larval host for the pipevine swallowtail butterfly. This site from BAMONA will give you more informtion on that insect and pictures of the larvae. The larvae will, of course, chow down on the plant, but if the plant in question has survived 20 years and the other is unaffected, we can't see where this is a problem.

So, you receive the "Stump Mr. Smarty Plants" Award of the Week. For two plants of the same genus, same age, same environment to have one dying and the other doing fine is totally puzzling. About the only possibility is that some of the sick vine might have wandered somewhere that a pesticide was being sprayed, which is why we discourage the spraying of pesticide; it can be sprayed one place and travel the plant's vascular system to poison the whole plant. You might also consider a male dog spraying on the plant, definitely not good for the plant. We hope you can figure it out and that the other one carries on.

 

 

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