Picture Profile: 1012: Birthwort (Aristolochia gigantea)

1012: Birthwort (Aristolochia gigantea)

1012: Birthwort (Aristolochia gigantea)

Botanical Illustration. Artist Codes: 1009-1013 SOLD. Completed between February and March 2010. Original water colours on Aquarelle Arches 100% hot pressed cotton rag paper. Unframed size 12″ x 16″.

I received the commission to paint five plants to feature in new ID signs at Marwell Wildlife’s Tropical World in November 2009. I visited the zoo to meet the commissioners and to view the plants in situ. I took resource photographs and received live material of the plants. I had to submit preliminary drawings for approval and all were accepted with only one minor alteration.

Marwell Wildlife seeks to address causes of extinction such as habitat loss and the over-exploitation of biological resources and to manage vulnerable populations of threatened species to ensure their survival. This is achieved through a range of species and habitat conservation programmes locally through Marwell’s base in southern England and internationally, with a particular focus in Africa.

Artist Code 1012: Birthwort (Aristolochia gigantea). Genera: Aristolochiaceae. Origin: Brazil.

The strange maroon flowers of this tropical climber attract insects into the entrance to the pouch behind the petal, where they are temporarily trapped to ensure they are covered in pollen before escaping to enter and fertilize another flower. It is called ‘birthwort’ because of its historical medicinal use in childbirth. This family of plants contains aristolochic acid which has been shown to cause complete kidney failure. In 2001, the FDA issued a warning to consumers to immediately stop taking herbal medicines containing aristolochic acid.