Passiflora cincinnata (on top) and P. racemosa.
Passiflora - Passion flower
Passion flowers are fascinating for several reasons. The vegetative morphology is unusually variable, the fruits of some species are an appreciated delicacy, the flowers are the most complicated and colourful with an exciting pollination biology, and furthermore, the different parts of the flower are attributed to religious symbolism. All parts of the plants are of great medicinal interest due to the content of alkaloids, cyanogenic glycosides, flavonoids, terpenes, sterols and different aromatic compounds. Passiflora incarnata is cultivated intensively for these reasons in several countries, and dried plant parts ‘herba passiflora’ is produced as pills or as an extract in sedative and sleeping drugs.
There are at least 525 species. The genus belongs to the family Passifloraceae, which includes 11 genera and about 600 species in tropical areas. The main distribution is in South- and Central America. There are a few species in North America and about a dozen species in SE-Asia, Australia, and Oceania. The genus was unknown to Europeans until 1553 after the Spaniards discovered America. P. incarnata is known to have been cultivated in Paris for the first time in 1612, while the most cultivated species today is P. coerulea, which was introduced in Paris in 1625.
Many more species are described and illustrated ind the book: Ulmer T. & MacDougal J. M. 2004. Passiflora – Passionflowers of the World. Timber Press. – The book has a long list of literature.
H. S. Heide-Jørgensen, April 2021.