Get to Know the Passion Flower

5 min read

How much do you know about the passion flower? This American vine has a unique flower and ornamental properties. The passion plant has medicinal properties and is also used for fruit. Explore this interesting flower with us.

In this article, we are going to look at the passion flower:

  • Description and origin
  • Pollination of the passion flower
  • Medicinal properties
  • Fruit of the passion plant

Description and Origins
The passion flower is the common name for a large group of flower species. In the binomial naming system, the genus is Passiflora. There are over 550 species of plant that fall under this group, with more continuing to be discovered. they are mainly flowering vines, but shrubs and trees are also found.

The passion flower is indigenous to parts of the United States as well as Central and South America. Nevertheless, some species of Passiflora are now growing in the wild as far off as Spain. The blue passion flower or Passiflora caerulia is one such example.

The flowers of the passion vine are conventional flowers. They tend to be showy and distinctive. These factors are important when it comes to pollination.
Pollination of the Passion Flower
The different species of passion flower come with various colors, shapes, and structures. The floral features are distinctive. Most passion flowers are, therefore, pollinated by biotic pollinators. A few species self-pollinate. Some examples of these pollinators include hummingbirds, bats, wasps, bumblebees, and carpenter bees.

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Many studies have been done on the pollination of Passiflora. They tend to be very specific about their pollinators. One example of this specificity is Ensifera ensifera or the sword-billed hummingbird. This small bird is the only pollinator of 37 different species of Passiflora. Its disproportionately long bill allows it to perform this function.

Passion flowers are also highly adapted. This is both for pollination and as a defense mechanism. Some of the features in this category include colored nubs, various leaf shapes to mask identity, chemical defenses, variegation, and nectaries found outside the flowers.  The larvae of several butterfly species feed on Passiflora leaves. Some of the defense mechanisms described are to protect these plants from butterflies.

The stinking passion flower is one example of a highly adapted species of passion flower. Its bracts have hair all over them. These secrete a sticky fluid to attract and trap small insects. Once the insects are trapped, they are digested by enzymes in the sticky substance. This forms a nutrient-rich fluid that can be taken in by the plant.

Medicinal Uses

Passiflora species are cultivated for various purposes outside their areas of origin. Both the flowers and the fruit of the plant have favorable properties and many uses. The leaves and roots of many Passiflora species have medicinal properties as well.

Maypop or Passiflora incarnata has been harvested for a very long time for the medicinal properties of its leaves and roots. In North America, Native Americans used the maypop as a form of traditional medicine. Later, the Europeans who came to colonize the area also adapted these methods and knowledge.

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Maypop leaves are brewed either dry or fresh to make a sedating tea. People also dry the passion flower into a powder or take out an extract to use as a dietary supplement. The historical and current uses of Passiflora roots, leaves, and flowers as medicine continue to be passed on. In terms of medical studies and clinical evidence, so far there is little to support the use of passion flower to treat medical conditions. In the United States, the passion flower has been classified as safe to use as a food ingredient or generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

Because there haven’t been enough studies into the use and effects of passionflower, not much is known about the full adverse effects. There are, however, a few to take note of. It is recommended that pregnant women avoid using this plant because it has been known to induce early contractions. Some other effects of eating or taking in the passion flower include nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, asthma, abnormal heart rhythms, and possibly rhinitis.

Fruit of the Passion Plant

Some very common and much-loved fruits come from some of the Passiflora species. Most plants in the group have edible fruit that is quite elongated. The fruit can be anything from two to eight inches long. One of the most popularly cultivated fruit in this group is the passion fruit. It is also known as maracujá or Passiflora edulis.

Cultivation of this exotic and delicious fruit takes place extensively in the warm and semi tropical areas of Caribbean, South America, south Florida, and South Africa. Passion fruits are largely grown for their fruits which are used to make juice. These fruits are either small and pink or large and yellow or orange. In South Africa, the passion fruit is referred to as granadilla.

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Maypop or Passiflora incarnata is a common species found in the southeastern United States. It is native in various areas including Pennsylvania, Boson, and Chicago. The fruit is small, about the size of a chicken egg. It is sweet to the taste and has a yellowish color. It is widely enjoyed as a native plant, and fortunately, there are very few pests that prey on it.

Passiflora quadrangularis or giant granadilla, as it is commonly called is locally farmed for its fruit. You may not be able to find this species many other places. The same applies to other Passiflora species such as water lemon or Passiflora laurifolia and sweet calabash or Passiflora maliformis.

Passiflora species also have ornamental uses, especially the vine varieties. As mentioned before, there have very diverse colors with unique shapes and features. This genus also derives its name from a unique place. Passion in passion flower comes from the passion of the Christ, which comes from Christian theology.

There are many interesting facts about the passion flower. With over 550 species in this group, there is room for much diversity. We have covered the origins of this popular flower, as well as the pollination process, uses, and fruit.

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