The Passion Flower
Passiflora is best explained at Easter despite it blooming in the summer. I worked with plants for some years before I came across the reason for the name. Contrary to it meaning passionate love of the romantic kind, the flower was used to represent Christ’s passion on the cross. The flower was originally from Brazil, hence its preference for warm settings. It was noticed by missionaries after the Spanish Conquest of South America during the 1500s. They used each part of the plant to explain their religious teachings to Amazonian Indians.
Description of the flower
The Passion Flower is a rather exotic climber. Its flowers are purple and white with a green tinge and stunning contrasts. It has a base of white petals with many purple and white filaments laying on top of them. The five green anthers and even higher the three brown styles all converge in the centre. The plant itself, when settled on a favourite sunny wall, will grow profusely, putting out curling tendrils to cling onto trellis or netting. One of its most intriguing features is that each flower only blooms for one day and then is gone. So, it is lucky that it flowers profusely! Following on from the flower is a yellow fruit which can grow up to the size of a small pear.
The missionaries explained Christ’s passion on the cross by using the flower. For example, the tall column in the centre was the cross, the five anthers Christ’s wounds, and the three stigmata at the top were the three nails. The tendrils were the whips, the many radial filaments represented the crown of thorns and the ten petals were the disciples (rather conveniently leaving out Judas and Peter ‘the denier’). I am not sure how I feel about the plant once I had seen these analogies. It all looks rather painful.
Grow your own Passionflower
With reference to how Passion Flowers grow – Despite enjoying the sunshine, you should not let your plant dry out. It will need to be watered every few days in the summer. You do not need to deadhead but you may need to prune to keep the growth under control. Frost often catches growers out in the garden, so this is another reason why this climber needs to be growing on a sheltered wall. If you are feeling adventurous you can save some of the many seeds found in the fully-ripe fruit. Store over the winter and when you are ready to plant you will need to soak the seeds for a couple of days. Viable seeds will sink. Place on potting compost but do not cover. You will need patience for it may be several weeks before they germinate! What is most exciting is that your passionflower seed may well be an hybrid. It may not grow true from seed. You may even produce a new variety!
The Flower Writer