Passionflower

Passiflora incarnata

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    The passionflower plant prefers to grow in full sun near forest edges. 

  • Range

    Passiflora incarnata is native to the southeastern United States with a territory as far west as Texas and as far north as Pennsylvania. 

  • Status

    Stable

The passifloraceae family includes more than 700 species, most of these are native to the Americas and each one supports a wide variety of wildlife. Passiflora incarnata is native to the southern United States and can be found as far north as Pennsylvania. 

Appearance

Passionflower is a sprawling vine reaching about 15 inches in length with complex, light purple flowers. The sepals and petals of each flower are generally a light purple color covered by wavy, string-like coronal filaments in a deep purple color. The stigma, ovary and anthers are suspended above the other parts of the flower. 

Predators

Variegated fritillary butterflies use passiflora incarnata as a host plant. In their larval form they will eat the leaves off of the vines, but the plant is such a vigorous grower that it does not do much harm. Turkeys will eat the new shoots of the plant in the spring and summer. 

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Passionflowers bloom for one day and will begin to set fruit after pollination. The flowers bloom from mid-summer to early fall. As each flower opens, the anthers (the pollen producing part of the plant) and the stigmas (the part of the plant that receives pollen) will fold down so they form a circle in the center of the flower.. As bees, particularly large bees like carpenter bees, visit each flower they collect nectar from the bottom of the flower while  their back are dusted by pollen from the anthers. As they move around the flowers, the bees dust each stigma with the pollen on their backs. Additionally, the plant can spread by seed or from underground shoots. 

Did You Know?

  • The common name “maypop” has two potential sources. Many believe the name evolved from the Algonquin word “mahcawq” or “maracock.” Others believe the name was created because in southern regions, the flowers begin to form in May and the fruits make a loud popping sound if stepped on.
  • The name passionflower was given to the plant by missionaries when they came to the Americas. The different parts of the flower were used as symbols to teach the story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
  • Ants love the nectar provided by passionflowers and will violently defend a plant to the point of eating or removing butterfly eggs and throwing caterpillars off of the plant.
  • American Indians have a long history of using passion flowers for food and medicine. It was commonly used as a treatment for earaches, inflammation, insomnia and anxiety.

Sources and Additional Information

United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Fact Sheet
Chesapeake Bay Native Plant Center - Passiflora incarnata
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    The passionflower plant prefers to grow in full sun near forest edges. 

  • Range

    Passiflora incarnata is native to the southeastern United States with a territory as far west as Texas and as far north as Pennsylvania. 

  • Status

    Stable