Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Flower for Sweet Irene

Common Passionflower (Passiflora caerulea)
On my western fence
West Odessa, Texas

If you haven't seen this flower before it's going to look a little unbelievable, but believe it or not, it grows quite well in my yard, providing me with blooms continuously from April until sometimes as late as November.

The Passion Flower created quite a stir when it was first seen by Spanish explorers of South America in the 17th century. Priests at that time gave the flower the name we use today, assigning various parts of the flower to symbols of the Passion of Christ. Wikipedia outlines the various symbols quite nicely:
The unusual shape of the flowers has led to the plant being associated in Christian symbolism with the passion of Jesus; the three stigmas representing the three nails used to nail Jesus to the cross, the ovary and its stalk represent the chalice of the Last Supper, the five anthers represent the five wounds, the corona represents the crown of thorns, the ten 'petals' (actually five petals and five sepals) the apostles (save Judas the traitor and Peter the denyer); the old leaves also represent the hands of those who persecuted him, the young leaves the point of the lance used to stab him, and the tendrils the whips of those who beat him.
There are quite a number of species of the passiflora genus, almost 500, each seemingly more exotic than the next. Three species are native to Texas: Bracted passionflower (Passiflora affinis), Fetid passionflower (Passiflora foetida) and the really beautiful Purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) which I tried to grow, but sadly placed it in one of the places where my dog Dixie likes to stand guard to bark.

The passionflower, a vine, is the exclusive food of the caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly. Throughout the year, I enjoy the butterfly company just nearly as long as the blooms. By the end of the summer, the hungry caterpillars can have the vine looking pretty ragged, though. The price of enjoying butterflies; you must also enjoy, or tolerate, caterpillars. You can see butterfly eggs in the picture above, the little orange specks on the bud on the left.

The fruit is edible. On my plant the fruit is rather bland-tasting, but nothing that adding a little sugar, some spices, and throwing into a pie crust wouldn't cure. However, I've not yet gotten enough fruit at one time to ever try that idea out.

Now I think you know everything I know about the passionflower vine.

Except how heavenly it is scented.


Godinla said...

I had these lovelies in my yard where I grew up. I never really got to appreciate them much because bees seem to enjoy them also.

The Green Stone Woman said...

Thank you for such a beautiful flower just for me. How did you know I love it so?

jomamma said...

Does the vine get larger every year? We had one at the school that seemed to take over one side fence of the playground.

I'm going to send you a picture of a flower I saw last weekend at the ranch. I need you to identify it for me.

Bobbie said...

So exotic and we have it here. Lucky us. There is another one that grows in our woods here, it doesn't seem to be one of the three mentioned in your post. I'll try to photograph it for you, if I can find one. It is very tiny for a passionflower and blossom is greenish.

Maya said...

I've always been fascinated by these flowers, but never knew anything about them. Thanks for the info!

Anonymous said...

You are writing beautiful stories about these flowers every bit as lovingly as you would write a person's story. Hmmm... where have you been?