Passionate for Passiflora

Purple Passionflower
Passiflora incarnata

When this flower blooms, you know summer is on the way. One of the most beautiful and exotic blooms in the Garden, passionflower is native to Florida and can be found not only in the Gardens but also throughout the natural areas and preserve lands. Many visitors also refer to the plant using a more popular name, maypop! Keep reading to learn how the plant earned this nickname. Passionflower is blooming now on the steel trellis in the Kitchen Garden.

Purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is an aggressive vine when grown in favorable conditions. It produces multiple stems that can exceed a dozen feet in length and the tendrils it produces along the length of each allows it to climb and clamber over all the vegetation it encounters along the way. Over time, new stems can emerge many feet away from the parent plant.

As a result, passionflower can be a bit unruly and is best used in a landscape where this will not be a problem. Fleshy, egg-shaped, edible fruits called maypops appear in July and mature to a yellowish color in fall. Ripened maypops can be eaten fresh off the vine or made into jelly. Maypop is also a common name and refers to the loud popping sound made when fruits are stepped on. The plant also has an extremely interesting history and was discovered by the first Europeans to the new world.

Wonderful additions to the landscape, passionflowers are spectacular in bloom and serve as larval host plants to several species of butterflies. Caterpillars of gulf fritillaries and several Heliconius – zebra longwings (the Florida state butterfly) and julias, feed on the foliage. Purple passionflower is a native vine in Florida. It is frequently found in dry, open hammocks and disturbed sites throughout the state. The species is also widespread throughout much of eastern North America and ranges from Texas to Illinois to Pennsylvania, and states south.

This is our state butterfly, the zebra longwing on a firebush plant.
This is a gulf fritillary on a butterfly bush.

This blog was written by Patrick Lynch and photographed by Cassidy Jones and Max Lindsay.