What is a Purple Passion?

J.M. Densing

A purple passion is a fast growing perennial vine that produces complex purple flowers and small fruits known as passion fruit. The scientific name for this plant is Passiflora incarnata, and some other common names include maypop, apricot vine, purple passion flower, and passion vine. It is often found growing in the wild in the southeastern U.S. and can thrive in gardens with ease under the right conditions. There are several varied uses for the leaves, stems and, the fruit.

Passion fruit, the fruit of a passion flower.
Passion fruit, the fruit of a passion flower.

The leaves of the purple passion vine are bright green with three sections, or lobes, and are usually arranged in an alternating pattern on the stem with the flowers. The strong, slightly hairy, stems of the vine use tendrils to grab hold of support structures like trees, bushes or trellises, and they are able to grow to lengths as long as 6.5 feet (2 m). The flowers of the purple passion have a complex, layered arrangement. The bottom layer has white, rounded petals, with a layer of delicate purple fringe-like petals over it; the center is white surrounded by darker purple rings with white stamens emerging from it. The fruit is green with an egg-like shape, sweet flesh, and many seeds.

The purple passion produces beautiful purple flowers.
The purple passion produces beautiful purple flowers.

The native area of the purple passion is the southeastern U.S., stretching from Virginia south to Florida, then west to Texas, and north to Oklahoma. It requires a sunny environment and is often found growing at the edges of wooded areas, along roadsides, and in fields. In gardens, it is often grown on trellises, walls, or on trees or bushes. It tends to grow in many directions and looks best in less formal settings.

Purple passion does not require much maintenance. Moist, slightly sandy soil with good drainage is preferred, and a layer of mulch is helpful. The vine should be watered on a regular basis and will thrive in full sun to partial shade. It will grow very quickly under the right conditions, flowering in June and July, and producing fruit in the fall. The fragrant flowers often attract butterflies.

The fruit from the purple passion vine is edible; it is sweet with a taste similar to guava once it's fully ripe and can be eaten raw or made into jelly. The leaves are also edible and can be eaten cooked or raw in salad, and the flowers can be made into syrup or cooked as a vegetable. There are also some reputed medicinal uses for the leaves and stems, for example, as a calming, sedative herb for insomnia, nervous tension, irritability, and menstrual complaints.

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Discussion Comments


And no mention of the expression, "I hate (something) with a purple passion!" I'm not sure of the origin of the expression, but I've heard it all my life.

I didn't know maypops were passion fruit. I've seen them in many places, and have heard of people eating maypops, and knew they were supposed to be very tasty, but I had no idea they were passion fruit. I always thought of passion fruit as being an Asian fruit of some kind, like dragon fruit or similar. I didn't have a clue there was a variety native to the U.S.! Well, live and learn.

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