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.
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.
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.
The main reason I wanted this in my butterfly garden is because it’s the host plant for the Gulf Fritillary butterfly.
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.
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
and about 10 days later we came home to this.
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.