Friday, August 31, 2012

Damn good plants - Passiflora caerulea

If mother nature is the architect of the natural world, then she out did herself when she created Passion Flowers. There maybe no other flower that comes close to the complexity of the passion flower, just breath taking!

The hardy Passion Flower (Passiflora caerulea), or Blue Crown Flower is an evergreen to semi evergreen vine, native to South America, ranging from Argentina to Brazil and all points in between.  Paraguay has adopted this beauty as its countries national flower, where it goes by the name of Jesus flower. Spanish Christian missionaries of the past, used the parts within the flower structure, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and his crucifixion.
  • Pointed tips of the leaves represent the Holy Lance.  
  • Tendrils represent the whips.  
  • Ten petals and sepals for the faithful apostle though excluding St. Peter.  
  • The flowers outer filaments for the crown of thorns.  
  • Chalice-shaped ovary for the holy grail. 
  • 3 Stigmas representing the 3 nails used and 5 anthers for the wounds (4 by nails and 1 by lance). 
  •  The blue and white colors also represent Heaven and Purity.

The vine climbs by twining tendrils that reach out and grab onto something, then recoil like a spring, pulling the vine close to its new anchor.  The dark green leaves are palmate or star shaped with five lobes reaching around 3 inches across.  Of course its major draw are the flowers, but following the blooms, orange, apricot like fruit are produced that contain numerous seed in a red pulp, that can persist through the winter.  I have read that the fruits are edible, but I haven't personally tried it myself, though its supposed to taste like blackberries.  I still prefer the true Passion Fruit, Passiflora edulis, a tropical vine that can be found from time to time in any good fresh produce stores.  Being a fast growing vine with seedy fruit it can have invasive tendencies, but its value as a food source for pollinating insects, mammals and birds is ecologically significant.

We are on the cusp of its growing range, so experimentation will be needed to find the best spot for its growth.  Out of all the Passion flowers this is best suited to our Northern Virginia gardens, zone 7,  or in a protected site with shelter from cold winds it may go down to to a zone 6.  Paghat's Garden ( listed it root hardy to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius) making it a valuable resource for grafting more tender varieties too.

Regardless of the Passion Flowers mythology and symbolism, the sheer beauty of the bloom makes it an irresistible addition to any garden.    What better way to hide those ugly chain-linked fences or boring walls by draping this vine over it.  Everyone needs a little passion in their lives so why not say it with these flowers!


  1. When I lived in South Carolina these grew wild in my garden. I've always thought they looked a bit like space aliens. :o)

  2. I mentioned your blog on my blog. Check out the paragraph above the squirrel pix to the right.