Thursday, February 26, 2009

passiflora foetida - wild passion flower

the picture at the bottom is that of a passionfruit flower

i was with my thursday's walking kaki across the new bridge linking the mainland to pulau punggol barat, when he saw this plant and he called out: passionfruit. i wanted to correct him, but on closer examination of the flower, i realised that there were some similarities with the flower of the passionfruit that i have seen grown on farms in lim chu kang.

this plant is not new to me. in fact, as a boy i had tasted the ripe orange fruit of this plant. i had watched the birds eating them, so i surmised that it had to be edible. during my spider-catching days, i used to come across this plant creeping on or near the floor of the undergrowth. the fruit is first green, then turned yellowish-orange when it is ripe.

if you look at the two flowers above, it is actually quite difficult to tell them apart. the first flower belongs to the stinking passion flower and the second is that of the passionfruit plant. both are vines. in the wild, the passion flower grows on the ground or close to it. the cultivated passionfruit plants usually have a trellis to provide the necessary support.

here is more information on this plant:

the foetid passion flower or stinking passion flower (passiflora foetida), also known as the wild maracuja or running pop, is a creeping vine which has an edible fruit and leaves that have a mildly rank aroma. it is native to northern south america and the west indies; it can also be found in south east asian countries like vietnam and on hawaii.

the stems are thin, wiry and woody, covered with sticky yellow hairs. the leaves are three- to five-lobed and viscid-hairy. they give off an unpleasant odour when crushed. the flowers are white to pale cream coloured, about 5-6 cm diameter. the fruit is globose, 2-3 cm diameter, yellowish-orange to red when ripe, and has numerous black seeds embedded in the pulp; the fruit is eaten and the seeds dispersed by birds.

the bracts of this plant serve as insect traps, but it is as yet unknown whether the plant digests and gains nourishment from the trapped insects or if it merely uses the bracts as a defensive mechanism to protect its flowers and fruit.

this passion flower tolerates arid ground, but favours wet areas. it is known to be an invasive species in some areas.


jean said...

Someone once gave a simple rooted stem of the Passiflore that I planted without giving it a second thought.To my delight and dismay it grew at a rapid speed and covered my pegola almost entirely in between 2 summers.The dismay is because it seems to attract hornets and having a meal in the garden gets trecherous sometimes.But its a beautiful climbing plant and very much appreciated here in France where it even withstands winters.No real care needed.Have a nice day!

yg said...

hi jean, thanks for your comment. i did not know that you have this plant in france and that it is grown in home gardens.

nah said...

Nature is so intriguing.
The first two photographs of the passiflora foetida, showing the bracts and the immature fruit, remind me of the flame scallop (lima scabra) which I had in my reef tank. Both have a common resemblance in appearance, except that the bracts for the passiflora are green, whereas the tentacles of the flame scallop are red or white.

Lam Chun See said...

I have one in my garden. 4 fruits are growing. I think I will share the photos with my readers as a follow-up to your article.