On your way to Mom’s place, stop by a local plant nursery. Pick up a maypop vine to plant in mom’s butterfly garden. The lovely Passionflower vine is fast-growing and feeds the caterpillars that will turn into a kaleidoscope, the official name for a group of butterflies. Some butterflies that frequent maypop vines include Gulf Fritillary, Zebra Longwing, Crimson Patch Longwing, and Julia Heliconian.
Commonly known as Maypop or Purple Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata is a short-lived perennial vine that is native throughout the southeastern United States, mainly from Florida to Texas. It is evergreen in warm, frost-free years but is often deciduous, dropping leaves after a cold snap or in the late winter. The leaves are dark to medium green, lobed, and are arranged alternately on fuzzy stems. The vines climb by tendrils on just about everything from the intended trellis to any plant or structure nearby.
The stunningly beautiful complex flowers which give the plant its common name are 2-3 inches in diameter and composed of a white fleshy stigma surrounded by five stamens, a fringe of purple and white filaments called the corona, and 10 white to lavender tepals. Tepal is a term used for the petal and sepals of a flower. The fragrant flowers are typically open for only one day and occur throughout the warm weather months.
The fruit that follows is egg-shaped, green to yellow-green when ripe and edible but not very tasty. The common name maypop comes from the hollow, yellow fruit that loudly pops when crushed.
Maypop is a scrambling vine that grows quickly and provides flowers for show and wildlife. Use in areas where it can be supported or in native landscapes or butterfly gardens. It can cover large areas if the rampant growth is not controlled. This butterfly favorite can be weedy, spreading by underground stems and branches that root readily when in contact with the ground. However, in some of the native range, it is a threatened species.
Choose a planting location that does not retain water; this plant will not tolerate wet feet. Passionflower is drought tolerant but looks best with irrigation in dry times. The vines flower best in full sun but will handle a bit of shade. Mulch this plant well to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Another consideration when choosing a planting location, butterfly larvae love it, which means that the leaves will look tattered and chewed at various times throughout the year. So do not expect a tailored manicured appearance from Maypop vines.
Plant maypop vine for Mom as a ground cover, on trellises, or other supports for the lovely flowers and an abundance of butterflies they attract.
This article first appeared in the Treasure Coast Newspapers.