Richmond Birdwing Vine – Aristolochia praevenosa

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Pararistolochia praevenosa is an Australian vine in the Birthwort family. The Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine grows in subtropical rainforest in coastal areas north from Wollongbar, in far north eastern New South Wales and adjacent areas in south eastern Queensland. It has been recorded as far north as the Mary River. It also grows in tropical north eastern Queensland, where it is a food plant for the Cairns Birdwing butterfly.

This vine is the main food species for the Richmond Birdwing butterfly. This plant has suffered from habitat loss since the appearance of European settlers. Former areas of its habitat have been almost completely destroyed, such as at the Big Scrub. In recent times there have been programs by schools and government authorities, attempting to encourage new plantings of this vine. This is mostly for the benefit of the Richmond Birdwing butterfly. It is considered that the caterpillars of this butterfly do not kill the vines, as the caterpillars only eat new fresh leaves, and ignore the older mature leaves.

Pararistolochia praevenosa grows as a large woody vine, characterized by dense brown hairs on leaf stems, shoots and flowering parts.

The ovate to elliptic shaped leaves measure from 7 to 25 cm long, and 2.5 to 8 cm wide. The base of the leaf is heart shaped or rounded. The leaf surface is a dull dark green above, and hairy below, particularly on the leaf veins. The leaf stems are 1 to 3 cm long, thick and twisted.

Two to six tubular shaped flowers form on racemes in summer and autumn. The flowers are 2.5 cm long, purple or pinkish with a bright yellow inside. Flower stems mostly originate from the leaf axils. The fruit is an orange ribbed capsule, oblong or oval in shape, 2 to 4 cm long.

image of a butterfly

Cairns Birdwing Butterfly

image of a butterfly

Richmond Birdwing Butterfly

Flowers are germinated by the Forcipomyia midge. Cuttings are poor to good in striking, and growth is slow. However, regeneration from fresh seeds is not difficult. Appropriate watering, weed removal, protection from snails, climbing support and fertilizing are recommended for young plants.