Passiflora vitifolia: A tropical vine bearing red passion flowers

Bright red passionflower vine growing against a fence

Red passion flowers, blazing joyfully in the early January sunshine during our visit to Florida, looked for all the world like a miracle to my Northern English eyes, tuned in to consider a single early snowdrop a delight.

It’s a bit of a minefield making sure which of the various scarlet red passionflowers you have before you. Passiflora vitifolia gets its name from the vine-shaped foliage. As its folk name is The Perfumed Passionflower you might expect me to have something to report about its fragrance but, not associating passionflowers with fragrance, it didn’t cross my mind to sniff it. It’s a vigorous vine when happy, able to reach 6 m (20 ft) if its surroundings force it to climb to reach sunlight. This smaller one was able to bask in the sunshine along a fence in the Naples Botanical Garden’s Brazilian Garden.

Passion flowers wow us with their intricate forms, even when their colours are relatively drab. This overhead view of a red passion flower could almost be a lesson in botany.

Three red-speckled styles that end in pale stigmas arch elegantly over at the top of the flower. The structure appears to balance on a creamy ovary in the centre, directly below; underneath that, five speckled filaments with green, pollen-bearing anthers attached. The pollen is held underneath – you can just glimpse it on the outer edges. Next, rings of eyelash-style filaments: long, dark red ones, with shorter ones in the middle, designed to make pollinators work hard enough for their nectar to withdraw with pollen on their backs (or heads, in the case of humming birds).

Underneath all that, five true petals, with five outer sepals beneath and between, all ten recurving backwards. My personal take on their colour? It’s the classic British fire engine red, more often described as crimson or scarlet.

Given its vine-like foliage, it would seem apt if this miraculous little plant went on to produce tiny bunches of grapes. Instead the fruits resemble dainty melons that some people describe as tasting like sour strawberries and others say are poisonous. It would be wise not to sample them unless you’re an expert.

Back in Darwen, our weather is far from tropical – we had big, leisurely flakes of snow on and off on Tuesday and those that stuck around have frozen since – so I’m tilting at windmills by choosing this for Cee’s Flower Of The Day. Well, not quite tilting, and not at windmills exactly, but can you see ‘waving a red passion flower at the snow’ catching on as an idiom?

Which reminds me to mention that Passiflora vitifolia is very tender, so prefers a tropical climate. Grown anywhere else it would need protection from cold, let alone the frost.

Of the four gardens we visited in Florida, the Naples Botanic Garden was my favourite, in tip-top condition and offering something for everyone. It wasn’t the one that pulled most on my heart strings, but more of that later.

33 Replies to “Passiflora vitifolia: A tropical vine bearing red passion flowers”

  1. Oh my what beautiful flowers. And seeing as how my son-in-law is from Brazil, I will show him the pictures and ask if he’s seen them! Naples, Florida is one of my favorite places…although this year I am sitting here in below zero weather praying for Spring! Love your blog! Thanks so much for all you do!

    1. Thanks for reading – it’s a real pleasure to share! It was the briefest of trips to Naples – just an overnight stay so we could visit the garden. I would have loved to have stayed for longer.

  2. The temperature in my entire house rose 10 degrees when I opened this! What a red! And what intricacy. This is such a welcome contrast to the whirling snow outside my window — it’s those nasty cutting little flakes, very icy, not the lovely big lazy ones. Thanks for the beautiful warm-up!

    1. I was surprised to find the tropical flowers looking tropical in January.

      Our snow was short-lived. The cutting snowflakes don’t sound at all good. Would they be what we call hail, or something in-between?

      1. Something in-between. Not quite hail and not quite snowflake. The kind of thing that stings when it’s blown into your face but won’t dent your head.

        1. We don’t have the denting type of hail, although I have seen its affect on cars when I’ve been travelling. I don’t know why our hailstones are small, but I’m grateful for it.

  3. What a beautiful plant!! Makes looking out at the white snow falling less overwhelming, because this pretty plant promises that someday even here will have summer again.

  4. Absolutely beautiful Susan! What a stunning plant… you are so lucky to see these on your travels. Shame about the snow though!

  5. Beautiful flower! You have captured its beauty with these photographs. I love how well you described the flower, so that if one could not see the picture than they could see it in their minds eye. Love Naples, FL!

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