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Passiflora incarnata

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Passiflora incarnata

Secure  (NatureServe)[1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Passifloraceae
Genus: Passiflora
P. incarnata
Binomial name
Passiflora incarnata
L., 1753

Passiflora incarnata, commonly known as maypop, purple passionflower, true passionflower, wild apricot, and wild passion vine, is a fast-growing perennial vine with climbing or trailing stems. A member of the passionflower genus Passiflora, the maypop has large, intricate flowers with prominent styles and stamens. One of the hardiest species of passionflower, it is both found as a wildflower in the southern United States and in cultivation for its fruit and striking bluish purple blooms.


Passiflora incarnata
Passiflora incarnata

The stems can be smooth or pubescent; they are long and trailing, possessing many tendrils. Leaves are alternate and palmately 3-lobed and occasionally 5-lobed, measuring 6–15 centimetres (2.4–5.9 in). They have two characteristic glands at the base of the blade on the petiole that secrete drops of sweet nectar. Flowers have five bluish-white petals. They exhibit a white and purple corona, a structure of fine appendages between the petals and stamens. The large flower is typically arranged in a ring above the petals and sepals. They are pollinated by insects such as bumblebees and carpenter bees, and are self-sterile. The flower normally begins to bloom in July.[2]

The fleshy fruit, also referred to as a maypop, is an oval yellowish berry about the size of a hen egg; it is green, though it may become yellow-green to yellow-orange as it matures. Like other passifloras, the pulp is gelatinous and encases the seeds. The color of the pulp is originally white and becomes a dull yellow when ripe. The seeds are black and approximately 5 mm in size. As with other passifloras, it is the larval food of a number of lepidoptera species, including the zebra longwing, the Gulf fritillary, the crimson-patched longwing, the Julia, the Plebeian sphinx, and the variegated fritillary.[3] In many cases its fruit is very popular with wildlife. The egg-shaped green fruits 'may pop' when stepped on. This phenomenon gives the P. incarnata its common name, as well as the fact that its roots can remain dormant for most of the winter underground and then the rest of the plant "pops" out of the ground by May, unharmed by the snow.

The maypop occurs in thickets, disturbed areas, near riverbanks, and near unmowed pastures, roadsides, and railroads. It thrives in areas with plentiful sunlight. It is not found in shady areas beneath a forest canopy.[citation needed]

The Cherokee in the Tennessee area called it ocoee; the Ocoee River and valley are named after this plant, which is the Tennessee state wildflower.[4] The local salamander Desmognathus ocoee in the Tennessee region is also named after the Cherokee word for P. incarnata. For thousands of years the maypop was a staple food and medicinal plant for the Cherokee and to this day it is a revered piece of their heritage. This, and other passionflowers are the exclusive larval host plants for the Gulf fritillary and non-exclusive for the variegated fritillary butterflies.[5]


Passiflora incarnata is easily cultivated and in its native range and homeland is a common low maintenance garden plant that can be trained to adorn fences and arbors. Passiflora incarnata fruit contain many seeds, each surrounded by an aril holding edible juice, and this juice can be consumed fresh or used to flavor processed products.[6] The wild maypop is an aggressive vine native to the southeastern United States extending into the central US reaching Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.[7] The vines can carpet the floor of thickets within days in favorable weather. The plants grow in full sun and need direct sunlight for at least half of the day. The best soils for P. incarnata are well-drained [8] but the plants tolerate occasionally wet and acidic soils. The plants have a high drought tolerance. P. incarnata can be planted all the year in zone 6–11 (hardiness zone). The space between two plants is 36–60 inches (91.44 – 152.4 cm).[7] One to two years are necessary before they begin bearing. Each flower has a very short life (about one day). Then the fruit develops in two to three months.[8] The harvest depends on vine size and age of the plant but one reported 10–20 fruits per vine. Seeds can be collected in the fall after the fruit has begun to shrivel. There are some problems with nematodes and caterpillars in the culture of P. incarnata.[7]

The flowers appear suitable for carpenter bee pollination and may attract ruby-throated hummingbirds.[citation needed] As both bees and hummingbirds look for nectar, the pollen filled flower anthers brush the back of the bee or the face of the hummingbird, enabling pollen to be readily transferred to the central sticky stigma.[citation needed]

Passiflora incarnata can potentially become an agricultural weed. The genus Passiflora introduced for agricultural purpose has been reported as an important weed in certain regions of the world.[9] The United States Department of Agriculture notes that P. incarnata is referred to as a weed by these publications:[10] Weeds of Kentucky and adjacent states: a field guide[11] and Weeds of the United States and Canada.[12]

Mechanical control such as by removing the suckers regularly is advised to prevent the spreading of maypop. It is also recommended to train the vines onto trellis and fences to limit propagation.[9]


Sprouting maypop in July
A cutting harvested after sprouting inground
Three year old maypop grown from seed

It can be grown from seed with four months of cold stratification and a multi-month germination period, but it is notoriously finicky with a germination rate below 20%.

Propagation by root is more reliable. A healthy 4- to 8-inch cutting guarantees strong sprouting within a month, regardless of the harvest time of the year. Thicker roots are more vigorous and can usually be found by digging no deeper than 2 inches in the soil.

The actual lifespan of the maypop plant is not documented. Therefore, how long the root-propagated plants would last, by age of the parent plant, is currently unknown. Maypops planted from seed seem healthier.

The roots themselves grow thick and long across the ground, mostly of a uniform diameter, and do not branch often. The smaller, more branching thin roots eventually grow into longer roots, which become thicker with age.


Once they find it and congregate, Japanese beetles eat massive amounts of the leaves and some of the flowers.

Immature fruit

Traditional medicine[edit]

Historical uses and folk medicine[edit]

Historically, the plant has been used as a herbal medicine.[13][14][15]

Maypop with slight pest damage

Passionflower is included in pharmacopeias, such as the European and British Pharmacopoeias in which the dried aerial parts of the plant are mentioned. In North America and South America, tea made from the roots is used as a tonic.[14] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration withdrew approval of its marketing because manufacturers did not submit any evidence regarding its safety and effectiveness.[16]


Young unbloomed flower

A 2013 literature review found that the herb has "a good safety profile".[14] One study found that a daily intake of 800 mg of a dried alcoholic extract, taken over the course of 8 weeks for anxiety, appeared to have been safe.[14]

Passionflower is used as a natural flavoring agent in food manufacturing and is generally recognized as a safe substance (GRAS).[17]

P. incarnata is also listed in the European Register of Feed additives as an animal feed additive.[18]


Possible interactions with following medications:[15][19]

P. incarnata may increase main effects or side effects of medications listed above.[19]

For oral consumption, pregnant or breastfeeding women should use caution and seek medical advice before orally consuming P. incarnata. The effects of oral ingestion of the plant compounds on reproduction or on unborn child have not been tested.[15][17]


P. incarnata contains flavonoids and alkaloids,[15][20][19] with leaves containing the greatest concentration of flavonoids. Other flavonoids present in P. incarnata include chrysin, apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, kaempferol, and isovitexin.[21]

The main bioactive substances identified in P. incarnata include polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, anthocyanins and other natural antioxidants.[citation needed] The polyphenols mainly belonging to the flavones C-glucoside class are present in P. incarnata and these phenols and flavonoids have high potential antioxidant properties[22] that exhibit significant free radical scavenging activity.[23]

Culinary uses[edit]

Passionflower has culinary fruits that may be used for jams, jellies and desserts.[citation needed] The juice is a favorite flavoring in drinks. It can be used as a fresh substitute for its commercially grown South American relative, Passiflora edulis, a related species with similar sized fruit.[citation needed] The fruit can be eaten by hand; it has a mildly sweet-tart taste similar to an apricot and a pleasant scent when fully ripe. The Passiflora family have aromatic, sweet fruit that make it highly appreciated for fresh consumption and as a flavoring aid.[24]


1.^a See Monoamine oxidase inhibitor on Wikipedia.


  1. ^ NatureServe (5 May 2023). "Passiflora incarnata". NatureServe Network Biodiversity Location Data accessed through NatureServe Explorer. Arlington, Virginia: NatureServe. Retrieved 12 May 2023.
  2. ^ "Maypop-Passion Flower – Passiflora incarnata". Root Buyer. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  3. ^ The Xerces Society (2016), Gardening for Butterflies: How You Can Attract and Protect Beautiful, Beneficial Insects, Timber Press.
  4. ^ "State Symbols". Tennessee Government. Archived from the original on May 30, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  5. ^ Horn, compiled and edited by Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart; technical editor: Thomas E. Hemmerly; photo editors: David Duhl and Dennis (2005). Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians : the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society. [Edmonton]: Lone Pine Pub. p. 105. ISBN 978-1-55105-428-5. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ McGuire, Christopher M. (1999-04-01). "Passiflora incarnata (Passifloraceae): A new fruit crop". Economic Botany. 53 (2): 161–176. doi:10.1007/BF02866495. ISSN 1874-9364. S2CID 24177586.
  7. ^ a b c Gilman EF (2015). "Passiflora incarnata (Wild Passion Flower, Maypop)". Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Purple passionflower" (PDF). US Department of Agriculture. 15 August 2008.
  9. ^ a b Mc Guire, C. M. (1999). "Passiflora incarnata (Passifloraceae): A new fruit crop". Economic Botany. 53 (2): 161–176. doi:10.1007/bf02866495. S2CID 24177586.
  10. ^ PLANTS Database. "Purple Passionflower". United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  11. ^ Haragan, P. D. (1991). Weeds of Kentucky and Adjacent States: A Field Guide. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-3369-0.
  12. ^ Southern Weed Science Society (1998). Southern Weed Science Society's weeds of the United States and Canada [electronic resource]. Champaign, Ill: Southern Weed Science Society.
  13. ^ "Passiflora incarnata". Plants For A Future. 2020.
  14. ^ a b c d Miroddi M, Calapai G, Navarra M, Minciullo PL, Gangemi S (2013). "Passiflora incarnata L.: Ethnopharmacology, clinical application, safety and evaluation of clinical trials". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 150 (3): 791–804. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.09.047. PMID 24140586.
  15. ^ a b c d "Passiflora". European Medicines Agency. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  16. ^ "PASSIONFLOWER: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews".
  17. ^ a b "Food Additive Status List". US Food and Drug Administration. 4 January 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  18. ^ "EU Animal Feed Register" (PDF).
  19. ^ a b c Ehrlich, Steven D. "Passionflower". University of Maryland. A.D.A.M. Archived from the original on 2018-01-25. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  20. ^ Miroddi, M.; Calapai, G.; Navarra, M.; Minciullo, P.L.; Gangemi, S. (2013). "Passiflora incarnata L.: Ethnopharmacology, clinical application, safety and evaluation of clinical trials". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 150 (3): 791–804. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.09.047. ISSN 0378-8741. PMID 24140586.
  21. ^ Dhawan K., Dhawan S., Sharma A. (2004). "Passiflora: a review update". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 94 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.02.023. PMID 15261959.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ Zhang, Dong-Yang; Luo, Meng; Wang, Wei; Zhao, Chun-Jian; Gu, Cheng-Bo; Zu, Yuan-Gang; Fu, Yu-Jie; Yao, Xiao-Hui; Duan, Ming-Hui (2013-12-01). "Variation of active constituents and antioxidant activity in pyrola [P. incarnata Fisch.] from different sites in Northeast China". Food Chemistry. 141 (3): 2213–2219. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.05.045. ISSN 1873-7072. PMID 23870950.
  23. ^ Ingale, Suvarna P; Kasture, Sanjay B (2017). "Protective Effect of Standardized Extract of Passiflora incarnata Flower in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease". Ancient Science of Life. 36 (4): 200–206. doi:10.4103/asl.ASL_231_16. ISSN 0257-7941. PMC 5726187. PMID 29269972.
  24. ^ Mamede, Alexandra M. G. N.; Soares, Antonio G.; Oliveira, Eder J.; Farah, Adriana (2017-06-04). "Volatile Composition of Sweet Passion Fruit (Passiflora alata Curtis)". Journal of Chemistry. 2017: 1–9. doi:10.1155/2017/3497216.

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