The common name Passionflower is said to have been chosen because the corona is said to look like a crown and is a symbol of Christ’s passion and cruxificion. For gardening info see www.edmonton.ca/ArtCultAttr/Passionflower.pdf
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a vine whose leaves and flowers are widely used in Europe to make a herbal remedy for anxiety and insomnia. The plant, which is native to the tropical regions of North America, was first used by the Aztecs of Mexico as a folk remedy for these conditions. Passionflower is also known as maypop, apricot vine, passion vine, and granadilla. It grows as much as 30 ft (10 m) tall, with a thick, woody stem.
Passionflower received its name from the sixteenth-century conquistadors who claimed Mexico for the Spanish Empire. The priests and soldiers who accompanied Hernando Cortez thought that the whitish-purple flowers of the vine symbolized certain features of the passion of Christ. The corona in the center of the flower reminded them of Christ’s crown of thorns, the five stamens of the number of Christ’s wounds, and the tendrils of the whips that were used to scourge Christ.
The vine produces a delicious fruit which is about the size of a large lemon, wrinkling slightly when ripe. Passionflower, called maracuja in the Amazon, is indigenous to many tropical and semi-tropical areas – from South America to North America. There are over 200 species of passionflower vines; the most prevalent species in the Amazon are Passiflora edulis and P. incarnata.
Passion fruit is enjoyed by all rainforest inhabitants -humans and animals alike. Several species of Passiflora have been domesticated for the production of their edible fruit. The yellow, gelatinous pulp inside the fruit is eaten out of hand, as well as mixed with water and sugar to make drinks, sherbet, jams and jellies, and even salad dressings. Indigenous tribes throughout the Amazon have long used passionflower leaves for its sedative and pain-relieving properties; the fruit is used as a heart tonic and to calm coughs.
Passionflower was first “discovered” in Peru by a Spanish doctor named Monardes in 1569 who documented the indigenous uses and took it back to the Old World where it quickly became a favorite calming and sedative herb tea. Spanish conquerors of Mexico and South America also learned its use from the Aztec Indians and it eventually became widely cultivated in Europe. Since its introduction into European herbal medicine systems, passionflower has been widely used as a sedative, antispasmodic and nerve tonic. The leaf infusion was introduced in North American medicine in the mid 1800’s as a sedative through native and slave use in the South. It was also used for headaches, bruises and general pain; applying the bruised leaves topically to the affected area. In many countries in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, the use of passionflower leaves to tranquilize and settle edgy nerves has been documented for over 200 years. It was also employed for colic, diarrhea, dysentery, menstrual difficulties, insomnia, neuralgia, eye disorders, epilepsy and convulsions, and muscle spasms and pain.
Source: Rain-tree website. More info below
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a fast-growing perennial vine occurring from Virginia to southern Illinois and southeast Kansas, south to Florida and Texas. The genus Passiflora of the passionflower family (Passifloraceae), explodes in diversity in the American tropics with over 400 species, representing 95 percent of all passionflowers. There is only a handful of temperate climate species, including Passiflora incarnata.
What’s in a name?
The common and genus names share the same origin – honoring the Passion of Christ (the period between the Last Supper and the death of Christ). The name is derived from flos passionis, a translation of fior della passione, a popular Italian name which was applied to the plant to signify religious symbolism. The floral structure was seen to symbolize the implements of the crucifixion. The three spreading styles atop the stigma were thought to represent the three nails by which Christ was attached to the cross. To some the five hammer-like anthers atop of the stamens exemplified the hammers used to drive the nails. To others, they represented Christ’s five wounds. Beneath these floral structures is a fringe of colored filaments, known as the corona. It was believed to depict a halo or perhaps the crown of thorns. Beneath it sits the corolla — with ten petals, each representing the ten apostles at the Crucifixion — save Peter and Judas. Giacomo Bosio, an Italian ecclesiastic and historian, went so far as to interpret that the unopened, bell-shaped flowers held these sacred symbols from the view of heathens who had not yet been converted to Christianity. If that’s not enough, the lobed leaves and long green vines were further thought to represent the hands and whips of Christ’s prosecutors. And so, both the common and Latin names – passionflower (Passiflora) – honors these visions.
Thomas Johnson editor of the 1633 edition of Gerarde’s Herball described these notions for what they were: “The Spanish Friers for some imaginarie resemblances in the floure, first called it Flos Passionis, The Passion floure, and in a counterfeit figure, by adding what was wanting, they made it as it were an Epitome of our Saviors passion. Thus superstitious persons semper sibi somnia fingunt” [always see contrived images] The species name “incarnata” means “made of flesh or flesh-colored.”
Passionflower as food
In his “Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf” John Muir speaks of the apricot vine (passionflower) as having a superb flower “and the most delicious fruit I have ever eaten.” That delicious flavor apparently did not go unnoticed by Indian groups of the eastern United States.
In a 1989 study on Indian sites, K. J. Gremillion provides strong evidence for the prehistoric use of the fruits by Indian populations of North America, as well as evidence that by the time Europeans arrived, the plant was either consciously cultivated, or at least managed for fruit production around areas of Algonkian settlements in Virginia. The seeds are found at archaeological sites several thousand years old. She notes also that the human-plant relationship with passionflower may have contributed to helping to spread the plant’s modern geographical range.
If you grow passionflower, you must taste the fruits. The fruits of the maypop ripen from yellowish to light brown in color. The slimy aril covering the seeds is very sweet and fruity when ripe. The hard seeds can be separated from the pulp through a sieve or apple sauce strainer. Or if you are in the garden, you can pop open the ripe fruit and suck the delicious pulp from the fruit. Make sure that the fruit is not over-ripe. Perfectly ripe fruits are delicious — over-ripe fruits ferment into a foul paste.