What is a Maypop?

O. Parker

The maypop is a climbing vine native to the eastern United States. In the fall, it bears fruit called maypops. The flowers have narrow, tendril-like purple petals surrounding a white center. The scientific name is Passiflora incarnata, and common names include, wild passion flower, purple passion vine and apricot vine.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

The purple passion vine grows up 25 feet (about 7.5 m) and is a rapidly growing and vigorous climber. This plant is well-suited to climb a trellis, drape over an arbor, or scale a wall or fence. The maypop vine is also grown as a trailing ground cover around landscape trees or in lightly shaded shrub beds.

The purple or lavender flowers bloom in the summer and are particularly attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. Green, egg-shaped fruit called maypops form in late summer. By fall, the fruit turns from green to gold or yellow in color as it ripens.

The fruit grows to about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and is sweet and high in niacin. Niacin, also called Vitamin B3, is an important vitamin found in some fruits and vegetables. Maypop fruit is well-suited for making jams, jellies, and preserves or for eating fresh from the vine soon after harvest.

Maypop vines thrive in full sun or light shade and sandy, well-draining or loamy soil. The plant thrives in an area that gets consistent light moisture but is also able to tolerate periods of mild drought. It grows year-round, developing a woody appearance in frost-free climates. In cooler areas, the plant dies to the ground and grows again each year as a herbaceous perennial.

In frost areas where the vines die back in the winter, the dead plant materials are cut back to the ground. A thick layer of mulch spread over the roots will provide added protection during cold weather. In areas that get only mild frost, a maypop vine can survive year-round when planted near a wall that provides protection and gets full winter sun.

The plant is propagated from seed or from herbaceous stem cuttings. Seeds are collected from the ripe fruit in the fall and cleaned, dried and stored until spring. The seeds germinate easily when planted directly into the soil or started in pots indoors. Herbaceous stem cuttings are taken from the first growth that appears at the beginning of the growing season.

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