Maypop.  I like the name.  At first blush, it evokes images of lovely, brightly colored lollipops.  Further thinking about the name takes me to the positive side of Spring and says that this plant will pop in May.  If I travel over to the negative point of view, the name reminds me that it may pop if I’m lucky.  Last year, we planted one of these Maypops in the sunniest spot in our garden.  It grew pretty well.  But, did it come back this year?  Will my Maypop pop in May?  I don’t know as I haven’t cleared out that part of the garden yet.  So, while I’m waiting for the mystery to unfold, I decided to read up on this passionate plant.  Here’s what I discovered.

The Maypop, also called the purple passionflower, true passionflower, wild apricot, and wild passion vine, is just one of about 500 species of flowering Passiflora.  The majority are vines though some are shrubs.  Although Passiflora are mostly tropical, the P. incarnata is a common species in the southeastern US.  This perennial vine freezes to the ground each winter and then reshoots, flowers, and produces edible fruit.  Of all the varieties, P. incarnata is the hardiest species and is native to Kansas and Pennsylvania.  It withstands cold down to -4ºF before its roots die.

Dare I hope to see my Maypop vine produce bowl-shaped, 1 to 2” creamy white blooms with blue-purple filament accents this July?  A lovely, decorative vine covered with these unique flowers and complimented by long, dark green compound leaves would look great climbing the trellis and decorating the side of my house.  This plant could become a noxious weed or very invasive since it grows in part shade/full sun, doesn’t need a lot of water, and will live in just about any soil. Its pH requirements range from 6.1 to 7.8.  However, given all that, the large, intricate flowers with prominent styles and stamens and a lovely aroma should outweigh those negative factors.

Plus, P. incarnata produces an egg-shaped fruit that is edible and has a sweet-tart guava-like flavor.  The fleshy fruit, itself called a Maypop, shows up as an oval yellowish berry about the size of a hen egg.  Green at first, the fruit becomes orange as it matures.   Few pests bother the fruit, but apparently, it’s quite popular with bees, birds, and butterflies.  I don’t think we would eat it, but we might attract a few more of our winged friends to the neighborhood.

But, the P. incarnata continues to surprise me.  Dear readers, please continue on and I’m sure you’ll be just as surprised as I was.

According to www.wikipedia.com, “P. incarnata leaves and roots have a long history of use among Native Americans in North America and were adapted by the European colonists. The fresh or dried leaves of maypop are used to make a tea that is used to treat insomnia, hysteria, and epilepsy, and is also valued for its analgesic properties.”  However, the passion flower or its fruit are more popularly associated with sex or romance.  At one time, a soft drink called Purple Passion existed and was thought to enhance those activities.   But that’s not the case.

The “passion” in “passion flower” refers to the passion of Christ in Christian theology.   As pointed out in several website articles, 15th and 16th century Christian missionaries “adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Christ and especially his crucifixion.” (www.Wikipedia.com )  According to www.botany.com/passiflora, “the outer ring consisting of 10 tepals (petals and sepals are collectively known as tepals) are said to represent the ten apostles who witnessed the crucifixion of Christ and within this circle of petals there is a ring of filaments, which allude to the crown of thorns. In the center, there are five stamens representing His wounds and three stigmas representing the nails. The leaves and whip-like tendrils represent the hands and scourges of Christ’s persecutors.”

I’ve no doubt given you too much to read and ponder, so I’ll stop now and let you (and me) get back to playing in the dirt.