May-pop, Passion-Flower (Passiflora incarnata)

Passion-flower has long attracted the attention of amateurs and botanists alike. This hardy perennial vine comes from a family of mainly tropical plants. Its genus, Passiflora, is the only genus of its family in the United States. Two species occur in our state, incarnata and lutea. Lutea is the yellow passion-flower only rarely seen. Incarnata is the purple one, common and beautiful.

Passiflora incarnata (usually called May-pop) has a blossom with five sepals and five petals. It has a crown or corona of white or lavender fringe banded with purple. In the center of the blossom is a column of united stamens enclosing a pistil with three heads (stigmas). This beautiful complex blossom is exquisite in detail.

This plant is a vine ten feet to twenty feet long, with alternate leaves. The leaves are from two and one-half to six inches long and wide. Each leaf is palmately three-lobed with finely serrated edges. At the base of each blade are two small bumps (nectar-bearing glands).

The flower buds come in the axils of the leaves, as do long tendrils which the vine uses for climbing over whatever is near it. The fruit is an edible leathery berry (the may-pop). It is the size and shape of a hen egg; green at first and turning yellowish as it ripens. When stomped, it makes a loud pop.  It blooms from late May through October.

It is called Passion-flower because the early explorers thought there was some resemblance in the structure of the blossom to the implements of the crucifixion.