Thursday, June 14, 2007

Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria)

Pipevine swallowtail butterflies are one of the picky sorts that can only lay their eggs and raise larvae on a very few plants. Aristolochias include the big Dutchman's Pipe vine and the small groundcover Virginia Snakeroot vine. I don't have room for the big Dutchman's Pipe vine and the idea of meeting big black wormy things at eye level is disturbing so I set out to acquire some Virginia snakeroot. Not as easy as you would hope. Through a Garden Web forum I found a man who grows odd woodland plants. His nursery is called Loess Roots but he doesn't seem to have a website. He provided me with a packet of seeds in exchange for keeping records and telling him how I germinated them. I did one batch the winter of 2005 and another in 2006. They need winter chilling to germinate so I did them in flats of a soil and sand mix and got about a 25% germination rate which he said was quite good. The first ones are planted out in the front bed and the second are still in the pots where they wintered over. I didn't think either were going to come up but they are finally emerging and growing. Maybe next year I will get butterflies.


  1. I just aquired a packet of virginia snakeroot seeds from Loess Roots. I planted some in my garden bed today, a few in a pot outside and a few in a pot inside to see how each would do. I was wondering how yours did this past season.

  2. I had recived a pack of virginia snakeroot seeds from loess roots and planted them in flats. That was last fall, as of this spring (2012) They still havent sprouted, although it is still kinda early I am wondering if they will come up. I do know that they can be quite hard to grow though. Still hoping that they sprout, if not then I will order more and try again.

  3. Don't give up on the seeds. As I recall they germinated a few at a time over a long stretch of time. I think I got about 25% germination rate.

    Do think about buying some plants from Loess. This is a very slow growing plant and he sent me some good sized roots. I've got about a dozen nice clumps and do get pipevine swallowtails on them. One year I watched a butterfly lay her eggs on the snakeroot plants.


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