Passiflora caerulea: Passion Flower

The showy blossoms of passion flowers have inspired and excited growers since time immemorial for they are a fantastic shape and colour. The odd name (passio — suffering) dates from the 16th century when J. Ferrari, a Jesuit, saw a remarkable likeness between the instruments of Christ’s suffering and the various parts of the plant. The trifid stigma he likened to the nails with which he was fixed to the cross, the stalked ovary to the cup of sorrows, the fringed corona to the crown of thorns, the tendrils to the cat-o-nine-tails, and the lance-shaped stipules to the spear thrust into Christ’s side.

More than 400 species, distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics of the whole world, have been described to date. Passiflora caerulea, at one time the favourite and also most widely-grown species, is native to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. It requires relatively cool overwintering and thus is not suitable for the modern flat. Nevertheless, it continues to be grown for its popularity is well-established. Selection has yielded several attractive deviations and hybridization has resulted in many beautiful hybrids listed as a group under the name P. Caerulea-Hybrids. One that continues to be primarily grown is ‘Kaiser-in Eugenie’ with deep pink sepals and corona filaments a deeper hue.

Those who can provide the necessary conditions for overwintering (a temperature of about 10°C [50°F] should certainly not miss the opportunity of growing this plant. Those who cannot are advised to consider such species that do not have a pronounced period of winter rest and thus do not need a lower temperature at this time.

It is often stated that heat is better tolerated by species with pink flowers, but this, of course, is not true. For example, P. mollissima from Peru, which grows in the Andes at elevations above 2,000 m (6,600 ft) and requires cool conditions the whole year (it even survives a light frost without any damage) has large, magnificent pink flowers. When choosing a suitable species for cultivation it is necessary to determine its origin and the conditions of its native habitat and base the choice on that.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Passiflora caerulea: Passion Flower

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