So I’ve begun ordering stuff for fall planting, starting out by ordering one plant I MUST have. I know that I MUST HAVE IT, even though I’m not exactly sure where I’ll put it.
The plant in question is Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla), a native vine with large, heart-shaped leaves. I could tell you that I’ve ordered this plant because the foliage adds an understated elegance to the woodland garden, but that would be a lie. I’ve ordered this plant because I want caterpillars – pipevine swallowtail caterpillars.
One of the instructors for the course in groundcovers and vines I’m taking at Chicago Botanic Garden brought in pictures of pipevine swallowtail caterpillars eating the leaves on HER Dutchman’s pipe. Seeing those caterpillars made me realize I must have this plant.
I do have butterflies, but no caterpillars. And I yearn for caterpillars the way Linus yearned for a visit from the Great Pumpkin. This yearning is mostly unrequited. I have tons of milkweed, four different species, yet I have seen a grand total of two monarch caterpillars over the past nine years. I have planted dill, parsley, and fennel, but have not seen a single black swallowtail caterpillar. Oh, and I’ve got five spicebush, but – you guessed it – no spicebush swallowtail caterpillars.
Why do the caterpillars forsake me? I don’t know. Perhaps I am unworthy. Perhaps they are remembering some caterpillar I squished when I was nine years old.
However, I am not giving up. It could be that pipevine swallowtail caterpillars are my destiny. Once they arrive on my Dutchman’s pipe, it will be like being seen hanging out with the most popular kid in school: all the other caterpillars will start showing up in my garden and inviting me to have lunch at their table in the cafeteria.
Finding a place that could fill an order for Dutchman’s pipe wasn’t that easy. Not many nurseries carry it, and it was out of stock at the first couple of nurseries I found that do sell the vine. Finally I was able to place an order at Shooting Star Nursery in Kentucky. I’ve had good experiences with them in the past.
Now that my Dutchman’s pipe is coming, I have to figure out where to put it. It’s a big vine, so I’m thinking I’ll let it cover the backyard fence on the alley side. The fence is only 5′ high, but 50′ wide. Dutchman’s pipe is a twiner, so I’ll have to maybe put fishing line on the fence with eye hooks. It’ll be in part sun facing the alley, with fairly light shade.
Do you also yearn for caterpillars? Is there a name for that condition? Have you been successful at attracting caterpillars, and if so, what’s your secret?