Looking for a low maintenance beautiful native wildflower to place in your landscape? How about something that attracts butterflies and other pollinators, as well. Do you need a groundcover or climbing vine? If you answered yes, then the elegant passion flower is the plant you may be looking for. Passion flower (Passiflora spp.) is a wonderful native wildflower that will thrive in any landscape. Passion flower can grow in full sun and light shade. This is a quick growing plant, but is not considered invasive. It can be argued that the passion flower produces one of the most remarkable flowers of any plant. Flowers are produced in the spring and summer and can reach a size of 5 inches. Flowers range in color from pink to the ever-popular purple. Flowers last about a day, but passion flower does not disappoint. This is a rapid grower and prolific bloomer, so you will have flowers most every day.
The one benefit of this plant is its ability to attract a host of beneficial organisms. The nectar is popular with European honeybees, native bees, parasitoid wasps and other valuable pollinators. Butterflies are examples of pollinators taking nectar from its large flowers. You will find that this plant will attract certain butterflies, specifically the gulf fritillary and zebra longwing. This is because passion vine is a host plant to both species. The zebra longwing is Florida’s state butterfly. This is a great plant to attract and keep butterflies in your yard. You can attract both species, but typically, one will dominate depending on where passion flower is placed in your landscape. If it is in full sun and in open areas, you will have predominantly gulf fritillaries. If the plant is placed in light shade or on located on the edge of a woodland area or conservation area, then you will have predominantly zebra longwings.
One of the most interesting of passion flowers is the maypop (Passiflora incarnata). Maypops make a nice groundcover and produce a large fleshy fruit. Maypop can be found in natural areas throughout Hernando. The name maypop originated from the sound the fruit makes when stepping on it. The “popping” sound was a favorite game of kids. For native passion flowers, you may find them available at a local nursery or garden center. Be sure to purchase native passion flower. Non-natives grow well but the caterpillars will most likely thrive better on the native species. Do not be too upset about caterpillars decimating your plants. This is exactly what you want! The caterpillars will pupate into a chrysalis and then the magic of metamorphosis will begin and an adult (imago) butterfly will emerge. Enjoy their beauty and watch the butterflies, flurry about in your new backyard habitat. If you would like more help with butterfly gardening, visit our UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County office at 16110 Aviation Loop to speak to a agent or Master Gardener. Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.