Passiflora, also known as passion flower, is a type of flowering plant that belongs to the family Passifloraceae.Nature
There are more than 500 species of passiflora.
Most species are found in South America, eastern Asia, southern Asia and New Guinea. Nine separate species of Passiflora are native to the United States, four or more species are also found in Australia and a single endemic species in New Zealand.
Passiflora is perennial plant which means that it lives more than 2 years in the wild.
Passiflora usually grows in tropical climate, on moist, well-drained soil in areas that provide enough sun.
They are mostly vines, with some being shrubs, and a few species being herbaceous. Vines can reach 9 meters (30 feet) in height and 4.5 meters (15 feet) in width.
Passiflora develops evergreen, glossy, 3, 5 or 7-lobed leaves. Curled tendrils can be seen at the base of each leaf.
Passiflora flower is about 10 centimeters (4 inches) wide. Flowers can be white, red, pink, purple, blue or multicolored.
Passiflora flower varies in form from a shallow saucer shape to a long cylindrical or trumpet-shaped tube, producing at its upper border five sepals, five petals, and many threadlike or membranous outgrowths from the tube, which constitute the most conspicuous and beautiful part of the flower, called the corona.
Passiflora flower reproductive structures has three stigmas, (female, pollen accepting organs), with their supporting styles joined together just above the ovary, (the seed producing structure). Beneath the ovary are the five anthers, (male, pollen producing organs), each supported by a broad filament.
Most species have round or elongated edible fruit from 5 to 20 centimeters (2 to 8 inches) long and 2.5 to 5 centimeters (1 to 2 inches) across, depending upon the species or cultivar.
The most famous fruit comes from the passion fruit plant (Passiflora edulis) which is widely cultivated for the flesh and juice.
That long list of health benefits commonly attributed to passion fruit is due to the nutrient, mineral, and vitamin content of the fruit, which includes antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, fiber, and protein.
The leaves are used as food plants by the larva of a number of lepidoptera. To prevent the butterflies from laying too many eggs on any single plant, some passion flowers bear small colored nubs which resemble the butterflies’ eggs and seem to fool them into believing that more eggs have already been deposited on a plant than actually is the case.
Also, many Passiflora species produce sweet nutrient-rich liquid from glands on their leaf stems. These fluids attract ants which will kill and eat many pests that they happen to find feeding on the passion flowers.
Passiflora incarnata (maypop or purple passionflower) leaves and roots have a long history of use among Native Americans in North America and were adapted by the European colonists. The fresh or dried leaves of maypop are used to make a tea that is used for insomnia, hysteria, and epilepsy, and is also valued for its analgesic properties. Passiflora edulis (passion fruit) and a few other species are used in Central and South America for similar purposes. Once dried, the leaves can also be smoked.
The “Passion” in “passion flower” refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:
~ The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance also known as the Holy Spear.
~ The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
~ The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (excluding St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot the betrayer).
~ The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
~ The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail.
~ The 3 stigmas represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).
~ The blue and white colors of many species’ flowers represent Heaven and Purity.