Name and symbolism
The plants were named for the Passion of Christ, because the flower structure seemed symbolic of Jesus' scourging, crowning with thorns, and crucifixion. The Mexican Augustinian friar Emmanuel de Villegas sketched the plant (P. caerulea) in 1610, and first mentioned the 'sacred meaning'. The ten petals represent the ten 'good' apostles (minus Judas and Peter), the 72 filaments correlated with the number of thorns in Jesus' crown, the five stamina stand for the five stigmata, and the three flower stigmata represent the crucifixion nails. In addition, the outer parts of the flower resemble a halo. This symbolism was later embellished even further.
Most of decorative passifloras have a unique flower structure, which requires a large bee to effectively pollinate (see photos below). In the American tropics, wooden beams are mounted near passionfruit plantings to encourage Carpenter bees to nest. At the same time, sizes and structures of flowers of various species of passiflora vary. Some species can be pollinated by hummingbirds and bumble bees, others by wasps, still others are self-pollinating. Passiflora species are used as food plants by the larva of the moth, Cibyra serta.
Passion flowers are native to tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Americas.
A number of species of Passiflora are cultivated outside their natural range (where some have become established) because of their beautiful flowers. The passion fruit or maracuj vine of commerce, Passiflora edulis, is cultivated extensively in the Caribbean and south Florida for its fruit, used as source of juice.
Maypop (Passiflora incarnata), a common species in the southern US, is a subtropical representative of this mostly tropical family. Its fruit is edible, but is quite seedy and mostly benefits wildlife. As with other passifloras, it is the larval food of a number of butterfly species.
Banana poka or Curuba (Passiflora tarminiana), originally from Central Brazil, is an
Chilean passiflora, Gulupa, Purple passion fruit or Pasionaria (Passiflora pinnatistipula) grows in the Andes, from Venezuela to Chile, between 2500 and 3800 meters altitude, and in Coastal Central Chile, in where is an endangered vine from humid woody Chilean mediterranean forests.
Passion flower has a long history of use among Native Americans, in both North and Central America. It is used to treat insomnia, hysteria, and epilepsy, and is also valued for its painkilling properties. It has been found to contain beta-carbolines in the harmala family, an MAOI which has Anti-depressant properties and hallucinogenic properties at higher doses, typically used in conjunction with DMT to facilitate oral consumption.
Anti Passiflora protest
On 30 July 2005, a group of people in Israel held a humorous demonstration against Passiflora, claiming that food manufacturers have begun to put the plant in an overwhelming number of products and passion flower is beginning to control our lives (see pharsh.com and photos, both in Hebrew).
Other useful herb information: Olive Leaf | Essiac | Marjoram | Horsetail | Allium | Savory | Camellia
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