Passionflower-It’s Not What You Think

The other evening I was walking through the butterfly garden in search of monarch caterpillars, when my foot managed to get tangled in a vine.  Looking down, I noticed the beautiful passionflower vine (Passiflora incarnata) sneaking its way into the garden path.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

Before I go any further, be advised this particular passionflower can be invasive.  It can take over a field in no time if not kept in check.  There are many species of Passiflora but I can only give you insight on this one.   The thing is, I knew this going in and still planted it and thought I could contain it.  Silly me.

As with a host of other plants, passionflower has been used medicinally for years.  It is said that Native Americans used the leaves of this plant to make a tea to treat insomnia.  Being an insomniac for years, I thought I should research this more.  After seeing terms like possibly unsafe in large amounts (what’s a large amount??), possibly safe taken short-term (how long??), and likely safe when taken with normal amounts of food (define normal), and could cause short-term paralysis (ok, I’ve heard enough.)  I decided to skip the experimentation of passionflower and stick with my regular non-sleep habits.

One might also think, with the name of passionflower, the plant might have mystical powers making one irresistible, alluring, and charming.  Dating back to the 15th century, the word ‘passion’ in passionflower actually had a religious meaning that referred to the crucifixion of Jesus. Spanish missionaries used the passionflower to represent the last days of Jesus as follows:

* The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance.
* The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
* The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (less St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot the betrayer).
* The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
* The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail
* The 3 stigmata represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).
* The blue and white colors of many species’ flowers represent Heaven and Purity.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/passion flower

True or not, I found it an interesting twist on such a pretty flower!

I almost forgot about the fruit!  After it flowers, a small fruit called a maypop will form.  These are also edible but when I cut one open, it was hollow.  Then I ran and washed my hands fearing deep sleep and short-term paralysis would set in before I could make it to the house.  Not really but once you learn these things, you begin to question the motives and intentions of every plant.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. The fruit of the passionflower is called a maypop. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

The main reason I wanted this in my butterfly garden is because it’s the host plant for the Gulf Fritillary butterfly.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

The caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary is small and spiky and you know they are there when you see holes in the leaves.

When you see holes in your passionflower leaf, the gulf fritillary caterpillars have arrived. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

Gulf Fritillary caterpillar on passionflower vine. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

Gulf Fritillary caterpillar

Since I had never tried to raise one of these to the butterfly stage, I put this guy in a critter cage and began to feed it.  I was unsure what stage of development it was in and it must have been close to pupating.  A few days later it made this pretty chrysalis

This is gulf fritillary chrysalis. It's host plant is passionflower. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

and about 10 days later we came home to this.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Passionflower will grow in full sun to part shade in zones 5-9.  It can vine up to eight feet long and (for me) rarely comes back in the same spot.  My plan was to plant it on my fence and let it twine and twirl to its heart’s content.   It’s plan was to be footloose and fancy free in my garden path.

Consider yourself forewarned and informed if you decide to give this vine a chance.  So far, it hasn’t been too bad to keep in check but I definitely don’t want to turn my back on it.

Brenda sunflower emoji

About the blonde gardener

I'm an Arkansas girl born and raised. I garden in the beautiful Northwest part of the state (zone 6b or 7) surrounded by the Ozark Mountains. My favorite part about the area is we have 4 distinct seasons and are able to enjoy a variety of activities. My main passion is gardening but I also enjoy hiking, birding, 4-wheeling and motorcycle trips. Basically anything outside. Thanks for stopping by! Brenda
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5 Responses to Passionflower-It’s Not What You Think

  1. I had to snicker at you worrying about poisoning yourself but it is wise to be careful. Enjoyed seeing the chrysalis. Kind of reminded me of a crab or lobster claw. I have a couple of these passion flowers. One has very small, all-white blooms and has walking across my “Fern Bed.” I need to move it to a more permanent location. The other one has never bloomed to my knowledge.

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  2. diningwithdebbie says:

    Passion Flowers are just the prettiest, aren’t they. We could nickname them “Delilah’s” I suppose:) I love your posts—I am learning so much. My red okra has done exceptionally well. Thanks so much for those seeds. What’s the best way for me to save seed for next year? And….I have enough zinnia seed to cover the entire state! Wouldn’t that be lovely:)

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    • Thanks, Debbie!
      I let the okra grow until the pods are totally brown and begin to crack open. I know what you mean about zinnia seeds. I can’t help myself when it comes to saving seeds for that one. I usually have a big/huge jar of them by the end of summer. So glad you enjoyed them!

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  3. Very cool that you raised the Gulf Fritillary from a caterpillar. A very pretty flower, but I prefer to ignore the religious interpretation. Very glad that you aren’t paralyzed or in too much of a deep sleep.

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  4. Nell Jean says:

    Passion Flower is also the host for Zebra Longwing butterflies. We’re seeing them this year along with the Gulf Frits, nectaring on Tithonia.

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