Author: Katherine Salkeld
Higher Taxon: Family: Passifloraceae
Passiflora are trees, shrubs, herbs, or frequently climbers with auxillary coiled tendrils. The alternate leaves are entire or lobed and have small, decidous stipules. The flowers are regular and almost always bisexual. The Passiflora that are unisexual are usually born on the same plant. The single flowered peduncle is jointed and has three bracts. The five sepals are distinct or fused at the base. There are usually five petals. However, occasionally the flowers are completely absent. The receptacle is usually terminated by one or more rows of petal-like or stamen-like filaments that form a corona. There are usually five stamens that fall opposite to the five petals. The ovary has one locule with three to five parietal placentas and numerous ovules. The styles can be free or united. There are three to five stigmas that can be capitate or discoid. The Passiflora seeds are covered by a pulpy aril and they contain a fleshy endosperm and a large embryo(Heywood, 1978).
Currently, there are over five hundred recognized species of Passiflora. However, there are still many species that are waiting to be published. An enormous amount of work still needs to be done on the Passiflora genus. There are many varieties and species that are being well preserved and recorded in herbariums. However, it is very difficult to continue finding and recording new species of Passiflora growing in the wild. The natural habitat for most Passiflora is within the sub-tropical and tropical rainforest. As our rainforests are being deforested at such an alarming rate, many species of Passiflora have and will continue to go undiscovered(Vanderplank, 1996).
While there are over five hundred species of Passiflora worldwide, only three of those species are found here in the United States. These species are: P. incarnata, P. morifolia, and P. lutea.
"Leaves toothed; petioles glandular at apex
Calyx subtended by three bracts; berry greater than 4cm long........................... P. incarnata
Calyx not bracteate; berry less than 3 cm long.................................................. P. morifolia
Leaves entire; petioles non-glandular.......................................................................... P. lutea"(Radford, 1968)
The Passion flower was named by Catholic missionaries who took these intricate flowers out of South America during the seventeenth century. The flower was named for a symbolic representation of the passion for Jesus Christ. The colorful crown represented the bloodstained crown of thorns; the five sepals and five petals represented the ten disciples who remained faithful to the end; the five stamens represented the Five Wounds; and the three stigmas represented the three nails that nailed Jesus to the cross(Klimas, 1974).
There are limited economic uses of the Passion Flower. Approximately fifty to sixty known species of Passiflora have edible fruits. However, only a few are commercially cultivated. There are also about twenty species that are cultivated for their beautiful and intricate flowers(Heywood, 1978).
Heywood, V. H. 1978. Flowering Plants of the World. Mayflower Books. New York, NY.
Klimas, John E., and James A. Cunningham. 1974. Wildflowers of Eastern America. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.. New York, NY.
Radford, Albert E., Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell. 1968. Manual of Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill, NC.
Vanderplank, John. 1996. Passion Flowers. The MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.