Passiflora Incarnata-Wildflower Wednesday

Passiflora incarnata is the Tennessee State Wildflower. Its common name is maypop, aka purple passionflower, wild apricot, and wild passion vine.

Passiflora incarnata is one of the hardiest species of passionflower, it is a common wildflower in the Southeastern United States. The Cherokee in the Tennessee area called it ocoee; the Ocoee River and valley are named after this plant. The
is quite near the Ocoee River and we have visited there many times, admiring the white water courses and visitors center built there during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Click here to find out more about that.

The flowers are intricate with prominent styles and stamens. The plants were given the name Passionflower or Passion vine because the floral parts were once said to represent aspects of the Christian crucifixion story, sometimes referred to as the Passion. The 10 petal-like parts represent Jesus’ disciples, excluding Peter and Judas; the 5 stamens the wounds Jesus received; the knob-like stigmas the nails; the fringe the crown of thorns.

September 4, 2009 013 (2)
The fruit is attractive and has many medicinal qualities. I never recommend playing doctor in the garden and this is no different, but I have tasted the innards and they were yucky. It was a spitter, as we like to say. Passiflora incarnata is not to be confused with another species that goes by the name of passion fruit, Passiflora edulis that is said to be tasty.

Passiflora incarnata likes full sun for best flowering, but will grow in part shade. It is quite drought tolerant but will produce more blooms with adequate water. It can be a rambunctious grower with vines up to 25 ft in a season, here more like 8-10 feet in length. It is winter hardy in USDA Zones 5 or 6 to 9, but freezes back to the ground here. It is pollinated by bumble and carpenter bees, among others. While I was photographing the first flower of the season, a pair of carpenter bees flew right under my elbow to begin feasting, oblivious to my camera and me.

Several vines of the late to emerge Passiflora incarnata show up here every year. Many are pulled for we learned the hard way that allowing them all to live was an invitation for world domination. The flowers are lovely, but the ratio of greenery to blooms is heavily weighted towards the leaf department. This particular plant has been allowed to grow in the smack dab middle of the gravel path that runs along the Azalea Walk for one reason.

As with other passifloras, it is the larval food of a number of butterfly species, including the Gulf Fritillary, (shown above), Zebra Longwing, Crimson-patch longwing, Red-banded hairstreak, Julia butterfly and Mexican butterfly. Passiflora incarnata can be a bit aggressive, but it has been a welcome wildflower, already growing here when we bought the property. For other wildflower postings, be sure and check out my dear friend Gail of Clay and Limestone’s Wildflower Wednesday on the fourth Wednesday of each month.


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19 Responses to Passiflora Incarnata-Wildflower Wednesday

  1. Gail says:

    Frances, Such a beauty and so remarkably different looking that I want to stare at the flower to absorb the intricacies. I bought myself a vine a few weeks ago…and am happy with the bloom and hoping it doesn’t crawl under the roof tiles! I haven’t tried the fruit, but will take your word that it’s a spitter; I remember too well biting into a sour native persimmon! Happy Wildflower Wednesday. xoxogail

    Thanks Gail. The passionvine flowers are amazingly intricate and beautiful. They only last one day, and are at their best when they first open in the morning, like some people. It does die completely back in the winter, so I doubt it would threaten your roof. It is also extremely late to return in the spring, you might think it is dead, but be patient! Not for eating!

  2. Carol says:

    That’s a beautiful vine, one I should try to grow in my own garden. It’s hardy enough!

    It is beautiful, Carol. It is quite late to show up in the spring, and doesn’t even seem to grow back in the same place as it was the year before. I would watch it closely!

  3. Linda says:

    Every year mine come up. Every year the Gulf Fritillary eat them down. I’ve never seen them bloom, but I’m not complaining because the butterflies need them worse than I need to see them.

    Thanks for adding in here, Linda. I only allow this vine to grow at all for the butterflies. I wish I had more of them to eat the whole thing down to the ground!

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I have never seen passiflora growing in my zone 6 except as an annual. I sure wish it would. I think it is most beautiful. I have a clematis that has a similar bloom. It only blooms in the spring though. Happy WFW.

    Happy WW to you, Lisa. It is nearly like an annual here, too, not always returning in the same place where it grew the year before. I have read that it has an extensive underground root system and believe it. It pops up all over the place. I would stick with the clemmie!

  5. Andrea says:

    We also have another species here sold as ornamentals, but i forgot the name. I see them in different colors at the garden show nurseries. They are called passion vine here and looks similar to that. I thought it is a tropical plant. What i am very familiar with is the P edulis or passion fruit.

    Hi Andrea, thanks for visiting. Most of the passion vines are tropicals, not hardy where I live. I wish they were, I would get a red one!

  6. Les says:

    I had to pull mine out (a two year process) because it was smothering everything in my small garden. Now I enjoy it in other people’s gardens or in wild places.

    I have been pulling this since that first year we let it grow wherever it wanted to. Actually, the bunch of it in the middle of th path is the perfect place for it. I can keep an eye on it and see the flowers and pollinators without it attacking the other plants.

  7. Rose says:

    Frances, you are always such a brave soul, risking your taste buds in the name of science:) I’ve always thought these flowers were so exotic-looking; it’s hard to believe they’re native wildflowers. I’ve never grown any before, but I appreciate the warnings–I’m not sure if I need another plant trying to achieve world domination in my garden, though:) The background on its name’s origins was very interesting.

    Thanks Rose. I am usually very risk adverse, so taking a bite of the passionvine fruit was highly unusual for me. It taught me a lesson, too. Be ready to spit it out! HA This is a pretty flower and the butterfly I am trying to attract, the Gulf Fritillary is gorgeous. This one is more about the wildlife than about the wildflower.

  8. yazoolady says:

    When we lived on 170 acres in Middle Tennessee, we had yellow passion flower, p. lutea, in our woods. it is a much, much smaller blossom that the p. incarnata, and blooms better when brought into part shade (which we did), rather than full shade. I don’t think it’s rare at all, just often overlooked.
    My mother said that when she was a girl they could carve the fruit of the p. incarnata like little jack o’lanterns. The inside is quite pithy. But as you say, look out or it will take over the world – or the south, at least.
    Kay Jones
    Our acres of passion flower were very, very attractive to Japanese beetles. Beware!

    Hi Kay, thanks for adding to the conversation here. I have seen that tiny passion flower before, growing here. It is itty bitty and quite cute. It disappeared years ago and I never saw it again, sadly. I will have to try carving the fruit, if there is any. It sure isn’t for eating! I pull most of those pop ups, but leave some for the butterflies.

  9. Mine hasn’t flowered yet, perhaps next year. It is funny that I have a strong root system of this volunteer in ONE area of my property… nowhere else. Since a new sprout came up further away from the Sassafras tree sapling I am happy to let it grow and be.
    Thanks for sharing the components of how it is considered to be associated with the Passion.

    Some of them don’t flower, even though the vines is quite long. I think it is sun and rain that helps the blooms develop. Or maybe growing in the gravel, those always flower!

  10. Elizabeth McLeod says:

    What a beautiful and unusual state flower. I need to come to Tennessee to enjoy your flora and fauna!

    Thanks Elizabeth. Come on down, we’ve got a song for you. That used to be the state slogan, it may have changed but I thought it was a good one.

  11. I love those blooms! I’m jealous of you that it’s your state flower. You mentioned it’s hardy in zone 5. I was thinking it was an annual if anyone wanted to grow it here.

    Thanks Sue. The blooms are quite spectacular, but there is much more foliage than flowers, and the leaves often cover the blooms. That hardy to zone 5 was from Mobot, it was a surprise to me. They are very very late to show up, maybe that is why many folks think they did not winter over for them.

  12. Mark and Gaz says:

    Such a beautiful flower and such a beautiful group of climbers too!

    Thanks Mark and Gaz. These are gorgeous blooms.

  13. It barely survives up here and people I know who have it take it in for winter. I am surprised it lives to zone 5. I will have to get one if there is one that is hardy.

    This is said to be the hardiest, Donna, and native. It is just now popping up in many places in my garden, late July! The flowers are quite intricate and interesting, though. Good luck with it!

  14. Frances I have always loved this flower and even tried one time to grow it but it did not like the climate here…fascinating facts and symbolism.

    Hi Donna, thanks for joining in the conversation here. Some years I think it is gone, it is so late to show up. It doesn’t even show in the place where it was growing the year before sometimes. I couldn’t miss the one in the middle of the gravel path!

  15. It’s easy to admire those lovely, unusual flowers. I’m so glad you can grow them… and even have to pull them! ha! There’s always room for those plants that help ensure our butterfly population! 🙂

    I agree completely, Shady. The butterfly is the reason we grow this, sort of like the bronze fennel for the tiger swallowtails, although the fennel is much nicer in the garden.

  16. It’s a beautiful, intricate bloom Frances. It’s hard to believe nature delivers such a stunning display! I love the color of that Passion Flower, too.

    Hi Plant Postings, it is all of that. The flower is one of the most interesting that we grow, for sure.

  17. Heather says:

    I planted Passiflora incarnata in my almost zone 7 garden last July…it definitely died to the ground last winter and I am just wondering when I should start to see new growth? We have had a chilly spring in Rhode Island this year and I noticed you said it was late to emerge…it is finally warming up over the last week. If I don’t see anything soon maybe I will dig it up and see what the roots look like…trying to be patient! Lol

    Hi Heather, thanks for visiting. The passifloras have not even begun to pop up out of the ground here yet, so I would definitely give them more time where you live. Like another month! Also, they seem to come up in different places than where the plant arose the year before. Be on the lookout all around for those leaves.

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