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January 31, 2019

Aristolochia macrophylla, (also known as Isotrema macrophyllum) commonly known as Dutchman's Pipe, is the winner of the 2019 Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal: GCA Plant of the Year. Annually since 1995, the GCA has identified a stellar North American native plant to receive its Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal for Plant of the Year. Native plants are important because they adapt to local environmental conditions, they require far less water, saving time, money, and perhaps the most valuable natural resource, water. In addition to providing vital habitat for birds, many other species of wildlife benefit as well.

The Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal: GCA Plant of the Year is the only award presented by The Garden Club of America to a plant. The medal is awarded to a North American native plant worthy of special recognition. The medal honors Montine McDaniel Freeman (1915-98), member of the New Orleans Town Gardeners GCA club, and was established by her son and daughter-in-law. Freeman was an outstanding horticulturist particularly enamored of native plants. Her 93-acre Beechwood Gardens in Covington, Louisiana, boasted more than 4,000 azaleas, camellias and magnolia grandifloras.

Dutchman’s Pipe is a deciduous vine that has been used in American gardens since the 18th century, especially to shade porches and windows from the hot summer sun. Large, heart-shaped, densely overlapping leaves 6 to 12 inches long can quickly cover an arbor or trellis with attractive, glossy, deep green foliage and create a canopy impenetrable to the rays of the sun or moderate rain. It is named for its exotic pale yellow flowers that resemble a “Dutchman’s pipe." The flowers bloom in May and June among a swathe of large, fuzzy, heart-shaped, dark green leaves. It thrives in USDA zones 4 to 8, in sun to part shade, and in average to moist soil. It is deer resistant and pollution tolerant, and it has no serious insect or disease problems. Dutchman’s pipe is a workhorse vine with an exotic look that would highlight a small or large native garden in the 21st century.

Honorable mention was awarded to two plants. Gymnocladus dioicus (Kentucky Coffeetree) a remarkable ornamental shade tree that is native throughout the northeast and central United States and Viburnum rufidulum (Rusty Blackhaw, Southern Blackhaw) an incredibly versatile and underutilized native plant that can be used as a small specimen tree, a showy shrub border, an understory planting, or naturalized to provide habitat in a woodland setting.

Special Recognition was awarded to Carnegiea gigantea (saguaro) a stately, tall columnar cactus with large branches. The saguaro is an iconic plant of the American Southwest and is indeed 'special' as a foundation species that supports many other species in the specialized ecosystem by providing food and habitat.

Click here to download the press release. 

Click here to read about the Freeman winners.


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