Uses : Edible, Medicinal. Native to : Southeastern United States, possibly originally from Central America.
This attractive flowering vine, which resembles a southern version of clematis, is a scourge of the southern landscape. It is banned in Hawaii and on the Florida Invasive list. I can't say it is as invasive as the non-native kudzu though, since passionflower doesn't seem to be taking over whole forests at the moment.
A good deal of thought and research should be done before allowing this plant into your area. According to legend, about twenty years ago my mother wanted some passionflower vine for a side fence in our yard. Against my father's protestations (supposedly). Since that time the passion vine has never left our block, it comes up from seed in different places every year and in the neighbor's yards. Since the majority of my neighbors are retirees and renters, they just leave the vine to do as it will - spread and seed. The vine forms an underground tuber which goes quite deep for a vine, and if the foliage is removed it will be able to return.
The best way to control passion vine is to pull out the young shoots every week in the spring. It is very easy to spot with its conspicuous triple-lobed or penta-lobed leaves. After the foliage is removed several times the tuber won't have energy to try again. This can be a bit labor intensive. Once the vine is larger later in the season it is nearly impossible to remove, so removing the flowers before seed setting can help.
It does completely freeze to the ground every winter here in West Florida, even in mild winters. I usually pull out the shoots that come up in undesirable places in the spring and leave the ones that are hard to pull. If a passionflower wants to grow into the cherry laurel trees then good luck, it's not hurting anything there.
The name 'maypop' comes from the sounds the fruits make when children throw them on the ground or jump on them. In late summer the fruit will set, making apricot-sized green globes with many seeds inside. The fruits are so seedy they are more like tiny pomegranates.
The 'passion' in the name comes from a symbolic representation of the Christian trinity some say they can see in the sex organs of the flower. In my opinion it should be renamed Maypop Zombie-flower as it has an unattractive smell and the plant returns from the dead every spring.
When grown from seed passionflowers make beautiful houseplants. Their long, trailing vines and beautiful flowers are quite amazing. Vining plants tend to be forgiving in watering requirements as well. Do grow from seed in a pot if growing for indoor use as they do not take transplanting well and do not root in water as easily as many other vines.
Much like the sweet potato, if properly trained the vines could make a very excellent natural privacy screen if you happen to live close to your neighbors. The vine does die down in the winter, which could make it useful for a shade-producing screen or for a pergola.
The flowers are like bee and butterfly kryptonite. They are hopelessly attracted to the huge, smelly purple blossoms. I've personally seen the rare and mysterious zebra butterfly in my yard thanks to this vine.
There are over 500 different varieties of passion vine available, the vines are able to hybridize with one another easily so proper identification of your cultivar can be intimidating.
Passionflower is grown the world over in tropical areas. The most common eating variety comes from Peru and Central America. The fruit is eaten fresh, juiced, jammed, canned, fermented into wine, baked into desserts, etc.
Remains of seeds have been found in Incan and Aztec ruins. After reading This Paper I have no doubts that the spread of passionflower throughout eastern North America was aided by human hands.
Extractions from the plant are known to have sedative and analgesic properties. Native Americans made teas with the leaves to help treat insomnia. Since then it has been used to help with seizure disorders, substance abuse programs, and organic brain syndromes. The fruit is high in lycopene and Vitamin C.
I was unable to find any research about whether it would be safe to use the foliage as a fodder, but I highly suspect it would not be safe in any significant quantities. After the first frost just remove the frozen vines and place in your compost heap.