Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate) is a deciduous vine native to most of the eastern U.S. and a few states west of the Mississippi River. It is often found trailing along the ground or climbing up nearby vegetation in sunny areas. The passionflower is the state wildflower of Tennessee.
In Kentucky, passionflower blooms from May through August. The purple and white flowers have a tropical appearance and look nothing like the flowers of any other native plant. Bumble bees and butterflies are highly attracted to the unique flowers. Passionflower is also a host plant for several species of butterfly and moth caterpillars.
The fertilized flowers will mature into leathery, green, egg-shaped fruit, approximately the size of kiwis. The inside of the fruit is full of pulp and is very seedy. Another common name for passionflower is maypop supposedly because the ripe fruit “may pop” when you step on it. A variety of wildlife, including some songbirds, will eat the ripe fruit or pull it apart to get at the seeds. In parts of the country, passionflower is also called a wild apricot and the ripe fruits are harvested to be eaten raw or turned into jelly. As the fruit ages, it turns a yellowish brown.
Passionflower can be grown in garden settings and trained to grow up a trellis or along a fence. However, it will spread by suckers and can become aggressive, especially in good garden soil, so think carefully about where you want to plant it. Once passionflower becomes established, it is hard to get rid of. Passionflower needs at least 6 hours of full sun in order to grow and bloom well. It will often bloom in its second or third year.
This article was part of Shannon’s original Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blog which evolved into the blog for Backyard Ecology.
Backyard Ecology: Exploring Nature in Your Backyard
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, beekeeper, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at www.backyardecology.net.