I’ve seen Passion defined as a “strong and barely controllable emotion” and also as a “state of outburst of such emotion”. Passion Flower Vines seem to encompass both concepts with their curious varied flowers, fragrance and tenacity as a vine. A few varieties take it a step further and even produce edible fruit!
As a child, I remember first seeing the flowers in advertisements that appeared in various catalogs which arrived to my mother in Virginia. These plants were described as almost alien-like with their crazy structure unlike any other we had ever seen. Luckily, we never purchased them and attempted to grow them that far north, but now that I live in South Florida, I get to see them frequently in people’s yards and at nurseries. No matter how often I see them, they still have the power to stop me every time and make me draw closer to smell or observe them or take their picture.
Humans aren’t the only ones who are passionate about these vines because many varieties attract butterflies who lay their eggs on the newest leaves which will feed their larvae until they reach maturity. In South Florida, there is a native Passion Vine species with tiny flowers and oval leaves which attracts mostly Gulf Fritillaries and Zebra Longwings, the latter being our State Butterfly. It seems that if you have this native Corky Stem Passion Vine or any of the others which feed caterpillars, you will usually have one or the other species of caterpillars but not both at the same time. The Gulf Fritillary caterpillars are orange and black whereas the Zebra Longwings are white and black. The Passion Vine with the bright red flowers will attract hummingbirds and butterflies seeking nectar but are not good host plants for caterpillars.
Native Americans, Aztecs and some people today use these plants medicinally as sedatives and to alleviate insomnia and anxiety. Early Catholic missionaries related various parts of the flowers with symbols of the Passion of Christ, such as the ring of filaments representing the Crown of Thorns, which ultimately resulted in the name of these plants.
In this episode of Eat the Weeds, Green Deane takes us foraging for Passion Flowers and Maypop fruit in the wild. A pretty cool video…