Passion Flower

Passion flowers (Passiflora spp.) are perennial woody vines, mostly from tropical America but with a few species originating in Asia, Australasia and the Polynesian Islands. They climb through the supporting vegetation by means of coiled tendrils. Many of them have showy fragrant flowers and several produce edible fruits.

This particular Passion flower was filmed over the course of an afternoon from around 1:00 PM until 4:30 PM. Once the petals began opening. they unfurled in about ten minutes. Note that the stigmas are initially held well above the anthers but after about two hours they bend down bringing the them close to the anthers. On the vine this flower came from, Carpenter bees were busy gathering nectar from the area below the anthers. While collecting nectar from flowers that still had the stigmas in the upright position, the backs of the bees became covered with pollen from the downward facing anthers. When these bees then visited flowers that had opened earlier and the stigmas were facing down, pollen was readily transferred to the stigmas. This seems like a handy mechanism for facilitating cross pollination. Click here to see some short clips of bees visiting the flowers.

How the passion flower got its name.

When Christian missionaries arrived in South America in the 16th century, they found a plant which they felt was a good omen for their mission. They called it the passion flower because to them it symbolized the death of Christ. The five sepals and five petals of the flower, which are similar in appearance, represent the disciples without Peter and Judas. The double row of colored filaments, known as the corona, signifies the halo around Christ's head or the crown of thorns. The five stamens and the three spreading styles with their flattened heads symbolize the wounds and the nails respectively. The vines tendrils resemble the whips used to scourge Christ.

Passion flowers grow wild in the southern part of the United States and in South America. In the southern USA, it is also commonly known as the maypop, the wild apricot and the ocoee. The last is the Indian name that has also been applied to the Ocoee River and valley.

To learn more about the Passiflora, please visit the information-rich web site hosted by Myles Irvine devoted to the topic at