I have been growing Richmond Birdwing Vines (Pararistolochia praevenosa) on my Land for Wildlife property at Pullenvale for around seven years.
These vines are the only source of food for the larvae of the stunningly beautiful Richmond Birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia), which is now virtually extinct around Brisbane. I have planted several vines down in our bushland and up around the house. It has been a struggle to keep the bush-planted vines alive over the years, particularly during dry periods, however, the vines up at the house are thriving. The house vines receive regular watering, already having reached the top of the trees they are living on and cascading down again. Although the house vines have previously flowered, this is the first season they have successfully fruited. Currently, each vine is covered in fruit, and it has been very exciting and rewarding to observe the fruit slowly ripening over the weeks.
The vines are located is in a partly shaded area to the south of the house which was planted with ferns a year or so ago. Regular water for the ferns significantly transformed the initially dry area into a moist environment rich in leaf litter. Considering the Richmond Birdwing Vine flowers require a specific midge insect for pollination, I can only assume the moisture and heavy leaf litter was the right environment for the tiny insects, as the previously drier conditions never resulted in successful flower pollination.
Although it is unlikely that we will encounter a spectacular and rare birdwing butterfly, I will endeavour to maintain the vines in the hope that someday it will happen. Despite their reputation of being challenging to grow, I have found these vines to be hardy and easy to grow if one or two fundamental requirements are met, and I encourage all landholders to plant a few to assist in the return of these lovely butterflies.
Article by Emily Corbett
Land for Wildlife member