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birthwort (bûrthˈwûrt, –wôrt) [key], common name for the Aristolochiaceae, a family of shrubs and woody climbing vines found in the tropics and other warm regions. The largest genus, Aristolochia, includes several plants cultivated in the United States as medicinals (e.g., the Virginia snakeroot and the birthwort) or as ornamentals for their curious flowers (e.g., the pelican flower and the Dutchman's-pipe, or pipe vine). The family also includes the North American wild ginger ( Asarum canadense ), unrelated to the true gingers of Asia. The Aristolochiaceae are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Aristolochiales.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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