Passion flowers

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Passion flowers
Blue passion flower (Passiflora caerulea)

Blue passion flower ( Passiflora caerulea )

Nuclear eudicotyledons
Eurosiden I
Order : Malpighiales (Malpighiales)
Family : Passion flower family (Passifloraceae)
Genre : Passion flowers
Scientific name

The species- rich plant genus of passion flowers ( Passiflora ) belongs to the passion flower family (Passifloraceae). Most of the over 530 species are native to the Neotropic , but around 20 species are from the Paleotropic .


Passiflora species are usually herbaceous or woody plants, only one species is an annual plant . Mostly they grow as climbing plants , rarely as independently upright shrubs or trees . Tendrils are formed in the leaf axils. The alternate, stalked leaves are designed very differently. There are extra-floral nectaries on the petioles .

The most striking feature of the passion flowers are the radially symmetrical flowers , which can be less than one centimeter up to 18 centimeters in diameter. The bracts , often characterized by bright colors, surround 15 to 50 staminodes , often intensely colored, arranged in a ring , the corona. In the center of the flower, the reproductive organs (five are fertile stamens and three scars ) to a so-called column ( Androgynophor arranged together), which protrude far beyond the bloom.

There are berries formed.

Origin and Etymology

Most of the more than 530 passiflora species come from South America and central to southern North America , but around 25 species are also found in Australia ( Passiflora aurantia , Passiflora herbertiana and Passiflora cinnabarina ), Asia , Madagascar and one on the Galapagos Islands . The Indians sometimes used their healing or intoxicating effects. The name Maracuja (maracujá) comes from Portuguese , which borrowed the word from the indigenous South American Tupi language , and means "Mara = food, Cuja = vessel".

Christian immigrants recognized symbols of the Passion of Christ in the flowers . The ten petals symbolize the apostles without Judas and Peter, the secondary crown (violet-white) as a red-dotted nectary wreath symbolize the bloody crown of thorns , the five stamens (yellow, pentagon-like) the five wounds of Christ and the three styluses (red-brownish, above) the Cross nails. The shoots are supposed to symbolize the scourge. The name Passiflora incarnata - Latin for "passion flower incarnate" - was developed accordingly . In the course of time, the Christians also interpreted other parts of the plant as instruments of suffering , such as the leaf as the "Lance of Longinus" .

Some types

Blue passion flower ( Passiflora caerulea )

There are just over 530 Passiflora - species . They vary in terms of flower color (green, white, pink, pink, red, lavender, violet, sky blue to very dark blue and also black), leaf color and size (countless shades of green, also variegated and multi-colored, from half a centimeter to a meter ), Leaf shape (unlapped to non-lobed) and the size of the fruit (several kilograms to a few grams) as well as the rest of the shape of the plant.

Several hundred hybrid varieties were also added through breeding in the 20th century . There are also seldom hybrids which, despite having the same number of chromosomes, are very difficult to cross.

Some tetraploid hybrids and species have also been created by using colchicine , which usually have larger flowers, leaves and fruits and also make fertile hybrids again from sterile hybrids .

The best known potted plants ( houseplant ) are the blue passion flower ( Passiflora caerulea ) and Passiflora × violacea , a hybrid of Passiflora caerulea with Passiflora racemosa .

Passiflora incarnata is a climbing plant with thin, green, woody stems , three- to five-part lobed leaves and single flowers with a striking, violet-white striped corolla. It is up to 10 m high and used in medicine, it is closely related to Passiflora edulis .

The best-known species among the red-flowering passion flowers are Passiflora racemosa , Passiflora murucuja , Passiflora alata , Passiflora coccinea , Passiflora vitifolia or Passiflora piresii .

Most of the passion flower species are native to tropical and subtropical South America, but three in North America ( Passiflora affinis , Passiflora incarnata and Passiflora lutea ) and several in Asia, Australia and Oceania. The North American species as well as Passiflora tucumanensis and Passiflora caerulea are frost-resistant and, under favorable conditions, can also be planted outside in Central Europe - for example for greening a southern house wall. Passiflora caerulea , Passiflora incarnata and Passiflora lutea are the most resistant plants and can withstand −15 ° C under favorable conditions, but they freeze back to the ground and in spring again from the rhizome (with Passiflora caerulea ) or from their underground rhizomes ( Passiflora lutea , Passiflora incarnata ). Certain natural selections of Passiflora incarnata even need cold stratification in winter for their seeds to sprout.

All passion flower species of the subgenus Astrophea (for example Passiflora lindeniana and Passiflora macrophylla ) are not climbing plants, but small trees with leaves that can reach one meter in length.

When crops are known mainly Passiflora edulis , Passiflora quadrangularis and Passiflora ligularis which the known fruits Maracuja (also used notation: Marakuja) and Blackwood ( Granadilla ) produce.


For a long time the genus Passiflora was divided into 22 or 24 sub-genera (classification according to Killip 1938). Since John MacDougal and Christian Feuillet in 2004, the number has been reduced to four sub-genera. The four monophyletic sub-genera according to Feuillet & MacDougal 2004 are:

  • Subgenus Passiflora L .: With around 240 species, including the best-known Passiflora caerulea , Passiflora incarnata , Passiflora edulis f. edulis , Passiflora edulis f. flavicarpa and Passiflora ligularis .

They are characterized by the “typical” passion flower blossoms and mostly bear edible to tasty fruits (see Passiflora edulis ).

  • Subgenus Decaloba (DC.) Rchb. : The approximately 220 species of the subgenus Decaloba are mostly relatively small and inconspicuous. These include, for example, Passiflora morifolia , Passiflora coriacea , Passiflora citrina and Passiflora sanguinolenta . Their flowers can be yellow, red, orange, white, and light green. A special feature of them is that many species naturally form variegated leaves, which, like for example Passiflora trifasciata, can also have a slightly reddish color.
  • Subgenus Astrophea (DC.) Mast. : With about 52 species.
  • Subgenus Deidamioides (Harms) Killip : With about 13 species.


Botanically speaking, the fruits are berries . Fruits of the genus that are eaten by humans are called passion fruit or grenadilla (also known as granadilla), depending on the type. They are egg-shaped, have a firm skin and contain a juice that is often bitter to sweet or extremely sour-tasting and has lots of edible seeds (similar to pomegranates ). They are high in Vitamin C .

The fruits of the blue passion flower ( Passiflora caerulea ) are about 5 cm long, yellow and the taste is rather inedible. The fruits of most of the other passion flower species of the subgenus Passiflora are similar, but sometimes very different in size, color and taste. The juice of Passiflora edulis is also mixed in fruit drinks under the Latin American name Maracuyá (Venezuela: Parchita). Fruits of the subgenus Decaloba are significantly smaller and not suitable for consumption; some are even poisonous. But also species of the subgenus Tacsonia such as the Curuba or banana passion fruit ( Passiflora tripartita var. Mollissima ) are cultivated for their fruits. These are elongated and can rarely be purchased from specialized fruit stores.

A distinction is made between the following passion fruits:


Species of the genus Passiflora contain indole alkaloids (the so-called beta-carbolines Harman , Harmin , Harmol , Harmalol and Harmalin ), flavonoids (Chrysin, Vitexin, Isovitexin, Orientin and Isoorientin) and saponins like Quadrangulosid. The problem is that it has not yet been possible to identify all of the ingredients in these plants, and the content of these substances itself varies within a species. In one case, a toxic effect of Passiflora treatment could be demonstrated. Overall, there is a lack of studies to record all plant components, their modes of action and possible dangers. However, this is not uncommon in the field of traditional medicinal plants.


The leaves of passion flowers (largely restricted to the species Passiflora incarnata ) are used in phytotherapy against nervous restlessness , tension, irritability or anxiety and related sleep disorders , back pain and tension or heart problems or gastrointestinal problems, and also for depressive moods, hysteria or Asthma . There are no known side effects . There is no extensive experience with tolerability during pregnancy .

The leaves and stems can be drunk fresh or dried as tea and are also available as ready-made preparations. In addition, many combination preparations are offered, some also as juice, for example mixed with valerian , St. John's wort , hops , lemon balm or hawthorn .

Heliconius melpomene rosina from the passion flower family (Heliconiinae)


Some representatives of the passion flowers have developed a special form of mimicry in the course of evolution in order to protect themselves from the leaf damage by the caterpillars of the Heliconius butterfly. In order to avoid cannibalism , the moth examines before laying eggs whether there are already eggs of conspecifics on the leaves in question. The moth's eggs are yellow in color. Some species of Passifloraceae produce yellow spots on their leaves themselves, simulating an infestation. Passion flowers also attract ants and wasps by secreting a certain nectar, which are supposed to eat the moth's eggs and caterpillars.


  • A. Katie Hansena, Lawrence E. Gilberta, Beryl B. Simpsona, Stephen R. Downieb, Armando C. Cervic, Robert K. Jansen: Phylogenetic Relationships and Chromosome Number Evolution in Passiflora , In: Systematic Botany , Volume 31 (1), 2006, pp. 138-150. doi: 10.1600 / 036364406775971769 (sections description and systematics)
  • Bettina and Torsten Ulmer: Passion Flowers, Formosaverlag, Witten 1999

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anton Hungari (ed.): Osterglöcklein. Uplifting conversations for the Easter festival group in the Catholic church years. JD Sauerländer, Frankfurt am Main 1862, p. 85.
  2. Wolfgang Caesar, Roland Spohn: Passionsblume, cultural historical aspects of a medicinal plant , 1997, Deutsche Apothekerzeitung , 137th year, number 8, pages 51-61.
  3. ^ Ellsworth Paine Killip: The American species of Passifloraceae , 1938, Field Museum of Natural History Publications.
  4. Torsten Ulmer, John Mochrie MacDougal, Bettina Ulmer: Passiflora. Passionflowers of the World . Portland / Or. u. a., Timber Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-88192-648-4 .
  5. Gunther Franke (ed.): Useful plants of the tropics and subtropics. Volume 2: Special crop production . Ulmer, Stuttgart 1994, pp. 290f. ISBN 3-8252-1768-X
  6. KC dos Santos et al .: Sedative and anxiolytic effects of methanolic extract from the leaves of Passiflora actinia. In: Braz. arch. biol. technol. 49/4/2006. Pp. 565-573, ISSN  1516-8913 . doi: 10.1590 / S1516-89132006000500005 online version
  7. ^ K. Dhawan et al .: Passiflora: a review update. In: J Ethnopharmacol . 94/1/2004. Pp. 1-23. PMID 15261959
  8. C. Wolfman et al .: Possible anxiolytic effects of chrysin, a central benzodiazepine receptor ligand isolated from Passiflora coerulea. In: Pharmacol Biochem Behav . 47/1/1994. Pp. 1-4. PMID 7906886
  9. ^ AA Fisher et al .: Toxicity of Passiflora incarnata. In: Journal of Toxicology Clinical Toxicology . 38/1/2000. Pp. 63-66. doi: 10.1081 / CLT-100100919

Web links

Commons : Passion Flowers ( Passiflora )  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Maracuja  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations