Sunday, July 3, 2011

An Alluring Flower Seduces Me into Helping it Invade

Detail of 'Nectar' by Fran Hardy copyright

All of nature is ingeniously programmed to survive and reproduce by various methods which entice other creatures or plants to help them spread and thrive. They may use such methods as smell or color, camouflage, or simply the ability to stick to another creature and be carried elsewhere or extruded in their feces. Ingenuity abounds.....Taken out of the climate and ecosystem where they live in balance, they can take over crowding out other species and become what we call invasives. I have unwittingly aided in this plot and we all need to be very aware when we move to any area what plants or animals may seduce us into helping them take over the native plants or animals previously there.
I started a butterfly garden, when I moved to Punta Gorda, Florida, composed of plants that would attract and aid in the reproduction of a variety of butterflies, utilizing plants that would provide them with food and pollen. It was a worthy pursuit and we had hundreds of gulf fritillaries that made cocoons under our stilt house and to our immense delight we were able to watch them emerge from their cocoons and fly away.
Every day I would watch for new types of butterflies flying in and out with my great pleasure. Unlike vegetable gardening we want them to feast upon the plants we have put in the garden as a food source. I became very attached to the variety of cabbage moths, with their subtle range of whites, yellows and oranges, that I had dreaded when I planted brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) in Pennsylvania, as their larvae left a distasteful mush on the vegetables. How our perspective on nature's ways can change.
I had a neighbor several doors up the street who gave me cuttings from her butterfly garden to plant in mine. The plants I got at the native plant nursery were all 'suitable' to our locale but Marta gave me a cutting of a beautiful vine with luscious, unusual pink and violet flowers with undulating tendrils called passionflowers. I thought the cutting would never take but then it did nothing but take and take and take. As I was to learn there are different varieties of passionflowers and some like the corky passionflower are an excellent choice for both the butterflies and the environment in south Florida. But the type she gave me is like a kudzu of passionflowers.........
Detail of 'Fly Me to the Moon' by Fran Hardy copyright
showing the type of passionflower NOT to plant in south Florida

No matter how often I weeded, plucked and pulled out the vines they engulfed the butterfly garden, my neighbors bougainvillea and even was climbing to the top of his oak trees strangling them in vines much to his chagrin. Once established nothing would defeat them. Suddenly the beautiful sweet-smelling flowers became my nemesis and when the eye of Hurricane Charley went over our community leaving devastation in it's wake, I had the landscaper who came into save what he could of our trees just bulldoze my beloved butterfly garden in the hopes of never having to try to tear out another passionflower leaving our neighbor to do what he could, in the hopes that removing the source would at least be of some help. Probably not.....once an invasive that travels underground has come it can be almost impossible to reverse the damage. BEWARE my gardening friends who you chose to befriend in your gardens...... 
More stories of my run-ins and warfare with various invasives in future posts.....
As you will see below there are many kinds of passionflowers. Some types are endangered unlike the voracious variety I planted.

Passiflora, the passion flowers or passion vines, is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants, the namesakes of the family Passifloraceae. They are mostlyvines, with some being shrubs, and a few species being herbaceous


The family Passifloraceae is found worldwide, except in Europe and Antarctica. Passiflora is also absent from Africa, where many other members of the family Passifloraceae occur (e.g. the more plesiomorphic Adenia).
Nine species of Passiflora are native to the USA, found from Ohio to the north, west to California and south to the Florida Keys. Most other species are found in South AmericaChina, and Southern AsiaNew Guinea, four or more species in Australia and a single endemic species in New Zealand. New species continue to be identified: for example, P. pardifolia and P. xishuangbannaensis have only been known to the scientific community since 2006 and 2005, respectively.
Some species of Passiflora have been naturalised beyond their native ranges. For example, Blue Passion Flower (P. caerulea) now grows wild in Spain.[1] The purplepassionfruit (P. edulis) and its yellow relative flavicarpa have been introduced in many tropical regions as commercial crops. There can be as many as 10-20 seeds in the friut.
The passion flowers have a unique structure, which in most cases requires a large bee to effectively pollinate. In the American tropics, wooden beams are mounted very near passionfruit plantings to encourage carpenter bees to nest. The size and structure of flowers of other Passiflora species is optimized for pollination by hummingbirds (especially hermits like Phaethornis) , bumble bees,wasps or bats, while yet others are self-pollinating. The Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) with its immensely elongated bill has co-evolved with certain passion flowers, such as P. mixta.
Yellow Passion Flower (P. luteapollen is apparently the only pollen eaten by the unusual bee Anthemurgus passiflorae. However, these bees simply collect the pollen, but do not pollinate the flowers.
Passiflora species are important sources of nectar for many insects. The leaves are used as food plants by the larva of the swift moth Cibyra serta and many longwing butterflies (Heliconiinae). Well-known species among the latter are the American Sara Longwing (Heliconius sara) and the Asian Leopard Lacewing (Cethosia cyane). The caterpillars of the Postman Butterfly (Heliconius melpomene) prefer P. menispermifolia and P. oerstedii when available; those of the Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia) feed on Yellow Passion Flower, Two-flowered Passion Flower (P. biflora), and Corky-stemmed Passion Flower (P. suberosa). Those of theBanded Orange (Dryadula phaetusa) are found on P. tetrastylis, those of the Julia Butterfly (Dryas iulia) on Yellow Passion Flower and P. affinis, and those of the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) on Yellow Passion Flower, Stinking Passion Flower (P. foetida) andMaypop (P. incarnata).


  1. Have resisted the lure of the passion flower so far...they consume the yard of the innocent planter; but they continue to intrigue the artist, even photographers cannot resist them. At least you posted fair warning to others!

  2. We should be really careful with what we bring into our garden, or at least if we are bringing in something new and know little about, we probably should take it to a botanist, or at least ask around to know what it is. Although, it’s kinda hard to know what it is, especially when there’s so many kinds of it, right? It’s sad that you had to bulldoze your beautiful butterfly garden just to get rid of the invasive passionflower. After all, it's like what you said Fran: Nature’s first instinct is to survive.

    Beau Proctor