Passionflower is an American plant that grows from Texas to Florida and up through the lower Midwest to Pennsylvania. The fruits may pop when stepped on, and so they are also called Maypop. The Cherokee in the Tennessee area call it Ocoee, and the Ocoee river valley is named in its honor. The vines, leaves, and flowers make good sleep and anti-anxiety medicine. These fruits are deliciously sweet and tart! I drive home from the farm and eat one or two slowly, carefully removing the pulp from around each little seed.
Passionflower was so named by Spanish missionaries as a teaching tool to explain the passion of Christ - with many of the flower parts representing elements of Jesus's last days and crucifixion (10 petals and sepals = 10 faithful apostles; 5 stamens = 5 wounds; 3 stigmas = 3 nails; corona = crown of thorns; etc).
Passionflower nectar is abundant at the center of the crimped, disc-like corona, so honeybees, carpenter bees, and fritillary butterflies squeeze under one of the five stamens, getting a good pollen rub-down on their way in. At the next flower, the pollen will be received as they brush past one of the three stigmas. Pollination!
Our original seeds came from plants that grow semi-wild (but started as one garden plant and was spread by animals), at the Deitrich's farm outside Elmer, NJ, where the Experimental Farm Network flagship farm is based. Nathan Kleinman of EFN brought us a few fruits in 2015. We planted their seeds and now we have a sprawling patch in a corner of our hoop house for medicine, pollinator support, sweet/sour snacking, and seed saving.
Also known as Maypop, Passion Flower, Passion Vine, Ocoee.
Days to maturity: perennial - flowers in second year
Seeds per pack: 40
Germination rate: 24% (Below standard germination: the germination lab did not use the methods listed below - you should have better success if you follow our planting notes! That said, if you get 24% germination, you will get about 10 vigorous passionflower plants, which will yield bountiful harvests over the years.)
Planting / harvesting notes
Passionflower seeds are known to be difficult to germinate. Here are a few methods to try: Place seeds in a moist paper towel in the refrigerator for one month before planting into warm, well draining soil. Alternatively, try soaking in warm water for 2 days and then nicking slightly with a blade before planting. Germination can take at least one month. Another method is to plant the seeds in the fall and allow them to overwinter in freezing temperatures for germination in the spring. This is a spreading perennial, and if it likes where it has been planted, it could grow long roots underground, popping up in nearby beds in coming years. Choose its home wisely and you will be graced with bountiful vines, blooms, and fruits!
Seed keeping notes
Seeds are ripe when the fruits become soft and perhaps slightly yellowed. Either suck the pulp off the seeds, or ferment the pulp and seeds in water for a few days and decant the pulp off the seeds.