What is the Passion Flower?
The Passion Flower is the generally used term to refer to any plant in the passiflora
family. A very successful family of plants, passiflora can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Most
species of the Passion Flower are characterized by very large, colorful blooms with prominent staments. As the
blooms have an unusual structure, some types require very large bees to pollinate them effectively.
While not an aggressively invasive family, some success has been found by those attempting to relocate the
Passion Flower. For example,though not a native species, after introduction by man, the Blue Passion Flower can be
found growing wild in parts of Spain.
As a natural pest control mechanism, the Passion Flower secretes sweet fluid that attract ants. In defense of
this rich food source, the ants will kill and eat pests that would otherwise feed on the plant itself. A favorite
egg laying site of butterflies, the Passion Flower has even developed a defense from this. Some Passion Flowers
grow little protuberances that appear to be butterfly eggs. Apparently, this tricks butterflies into laying fewer
eggs on those particular plants to avoid overpopulation.
The Passion Flower is such an intrinsic part of some ecosystems, animals have actually
evolved to derive maximum benefit from them.
A tiny black bee - Anthemurgus passiflorae (or passionflower bee), that ranges from Texas to Illinois eats
nothing but the pollen from the Yellow Passion Flower. As its small size and lifestyle do little to pollinate the
flower or benefit it in other ways, this is an example of an animal evolving to specialize in a predatory
The Sword-billed Hummingbird on the other hand, has evolved a shape and lifestyle that benefit both the bird and
plant. Named for its long beak that often matches its entire body in length, the Sword-billed Hummingbird uses that
lengthy probe to get the nectar from the very heart of the Passion Flower. In doing so, its wings spread the
pollen, thus helping the plant reproduce. Such symbiotic partnerships are a part of every healthy ecosystem.
The Passion Flower has long been a favorite for cultivation by those seeking the beautiful flowers and the
medicinal properties of the plant. As the vibrant blooms last only a couple of days once removed from the plant,
Passion Flower blooms were historically used for decoration mostly by those rich enough to afford a steady
Natives of every area the Passion Flower grows naturally have used it as a medicine for centuries. The most
common use for the plant as a medicine was brewing a tea to be drunk as a nutritional supplement. Some cultures
render the plant's juices into a syrup to be used as a spot treatment for various medical problems. Various
civilizations even dried Passion Flower leaves and smoked them medicinally and ceremonially.
As a natural part of many ecosystems, with its benefits to local animals and humans alike, along with its
stunning beauty, the Passion Flower has earned its reputation as one of the most beneficial plants found
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