Thursday, September 6, 2012

DEAR IRIS Passion Flowers pop in early May

By GERRI LYON, Master Gardener intern | Sep 06, 2012
PHOTO SUBMITTED Passion Flower is a vine that produces “May Pops,” so-called because of the way the flowers pop out in early May.

Delightful, fragrant, stunning, unusual, beautiful, and amazing are some of the words used to describe Passiflora incarnate. Passiflora, or Passion Flower, is a vine that produces “May Pops”, so-called because of the way the flowers pop out in early May. The Passion Flower is a common roadside weed in the southeastern United States.
May Pops were renamed by missionaries in the 1500s; they believed that several parts of these exotic flowers represent Christ’s crucifixion. Ten petals represent 10 apostles present at the crucifixion, Peter and James being absent. The corona or crown represents the crown of thorns or thought to be emblematic of the halo. Five anthers are suggestive of the five wounds or emblematic of hammers used to drive nails. Three stigmas are representative of the three nails piercing the hands and the feet. Now I am really impressed and understand the reverence to these flowers. It has become my favorite “new” find for this gardening season.
My Passion Flower is growing in the ground, next to a potted purple fountain grass that has a background trellis. It has managed to intertwine around the grass and trellis, covering the front and back. I have coaxed it off the ground although I believe it would continue growing in the rocks. I now have two new plants which explains why it is a weed elsewhere! I’m watching attentively for the new plants to bloom. My plan is to transplant these new starts and give them a home in the field house for the winter.
As I researched the May Pops, I discovered many colors and variations. Some varieties develop fruit. So far I have no fruit, just fragrant, lovely blossoms that last one full day. The plant itself is deep green with pointed, veined leaves. They need sun exposure of six hours in fertile, well-drained soil. I have fertilized regularly with a 2-1-3 solid type fertilizer. Diluted liquid type (Miracle Gro) would produce more foliage and fewer blossoms.
The Passion Flower is widely used for medicinal purposes from anxiety relief to lowering blood pressure. No wonder I feel so happy to have “found” this amazing plant! It’s a real pleasure each day to see how many flowers open. Fragrance lingers at various times attracting me and many bumble bees! The bees bury themselves in the throat for a feast and leave acting dizzy and full!
Conversations have been interesting when friends and family have visited. Apparently, Passion Flower is not common here; no one else has known its history of reverence or its name. With its many unique qualities, at times it looks like it came from outer space!
If you enjoy unusual finds in your yardscape, add the Passion Flower to your “imagine” list for 2013. Even on the hottest of days of this summer past, May Pops endured.

­­ Gerri Lyon is a Master Gardener intern.

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