Passiflora, or the passion flower, is an unforgettable flower which belongs to the plant family Passifloraceae.
Most of these plants are vines which grow tendrils to attach to nearby plants and other structures for support, but you can get other plants within the genus which grow as small bushes or trees.
The flower is, of course, the most-loved part of the plant in ornamental usage, its unique appearance compared to the clematis in its striking nature and available colors.
It’s often planted near clematis as it has the same growing habit, complimenting the seed heads of a clematis very well, and contrasting the soft, delicate clematis flowers.
At a Glance: What You Need To Know About Passion Flowers
Most types of passion flower are repeat bloomers, which means they will treat your gardens to a fantastic tropical display throughout the flowering season in mid to late summer.
Most passion flower species originate from Mexico and Central and South America, while some have naturalized in other parts of the world, such as the blue passion flower growing in parts of Spain.
A lot of passion flower vines are grown for the passion fruit they produce, the size and flavor depending on the type. Most commercially available passion fruit juices are made from Passiflora edulis flavicarpa.
Cultural Symbolism Behind The Passion Flower
In the 15th to 16th centuries, the name passion flower (see also Flower Names Beginning With P) was given to this beautiful flower, as several parts of the flower can be seen to represent different aspects of the suffering of Christ.
The leaves which end in points symbolize the holy lance that pierced Jesus on the cross. The tendrils which the plant uses to anchor itself to other plants and structures signify the whips used on Jesus.
Each passion flower produces ten petals, which signify the primary disciples of Jesus who didn’t betray or doubt him.
The unique filaments these flowers produce symbolize the crown of thorns, and the plant’s ovary resembles the Holy Grail.
In Europe, there are also many other names associated with the passion flower, including ‘The Flower of the Five Wounds’, which refers to the injuries Jesus sustained, and Muttergottes-Stern, which is ‘Mother of God’s star’.
In many cultures within the Americas, this flower’s form represents the radial disk of the sun.
Most vines were associated with death and the underworld in Mayan myth, and there have been many artifacts which bear symbols of vines along with severed heads, where the fruit of a passionflower can resemble a disembodied head.
This does line up with a Mayan myth of resurrection, of a god named Hun Hunahpu, one of the most important gods. In the maize harvest season, he would be ‘decapitated’, and would be resurrected once the growing season began again.
Victorian Language of Flowers
To the Victorians, passion flowers were very rare, and to own a passion vine or even to possess a single passion flower was a way of showing off your wealth and status.
When given as a gift, they also represented the unique nature of the recipient that sets them apart from the rest.
The Symbolism Behind the Passion Flower
Celebration of Unique Beauty
Every culture has an idea of what beauty means, and each one is specific to that culture, usually following a time-old pattern. Just look at fashion and how it repeats itself, for an example of what is considered beautiful.
When you think of conventional beauty, you may picture people being compared to roses, peonies, or carnations.
The passion flower takes such an unusual shape with its many filaments that it is entirely beautiful in its own right.
Gifting someone passion flowers signifies that you admire someone for their unique traits which make up their individuality, especially if they don’t follow convention.
Mystery and Guile
The appearance of a passion flower is intriguing, and it invokes curiosity. But if you look deeper, some of the plant’s defenses rely on misleading insects in order to ensure the bloom’s survival long enough to reproduce.
Butterflies are drawn to the leaves of the passion flower vine in order to lay their eggs. Over time, the passion flower vine has evolved to produce small bumps on the leaves.
This tricks the butterflies into assuming that there are already eggs on the leaves, and there would be too much competition between the larvae, meaning that there would be little chance of the offspring surviving.
While this is obviously associated with lying, it doesn’t really count as negative symbolism, as this evolutionary trait has meant the plant’s survival.
White Passion Flower Symbolism
White passion flowers symbolize grace, innocence, and spirituality, as they brighten up many dark corners.
Blue Passion Flower Meaning
Blue passion flowers represent the Virgin Mary, with the bicolor of blue and white.
Red Passion Flower Symbolism
Red passion flowers represent devotion to faith, as well as romantic love and desire.
Purple Passion Flower Meaning
Traditionally, purple passion flowers symbolize nobility, like many other purple flowers, but they also represent religious faith.
Yellow Passion Flower Symbolism
Yellow passion flowers represent mystery, affection, and curiosity.
What does a Passion Flower Tattoo Mean?
Passion flowers are one of the perfect subjects for tattoos, as they have a lot of aesthetic value as well as possessing a lot of symbolism.
Passion flower tattoos represent resilience, having the means to adapt to any situation (see also What Does No Rain No Flowers Mean?), and knowing when to sacrifice something, and when to stick with it.
Passion flower tattoos can also mean remembrance, faith, and complete devotion to someone or to the wearer’s faith.
Folk Uses for Passion Flowers
While passion flowers are edible and are classified as safe to eat, there are side effects. It’s not a suitable ingredient for those who are pregnant, as it can bring on contractions.
It’s worth noting that the uses below don’t have a lot of concrete evidence in treating specific complaints compared to modern medicine, and you should always consult your doctor before trying to use plants to self-medicate.
In the past, passion flowers have been used to treat insomnia and anxiety, often made into a tea to have before bed to promote a restful sleep.
Since the late ‘70s, we have found better ways of treating both insomnia and anxiety, as there isn’t enough evidence that suggests the passion flower doesn’t act as a placebo for both of these complaints.
In traditional Native American medicine, the Passiflora incarnata plant has many uses, particularly the foliage and the roots of the plant.
In particular, the Cherokee made the roots into a poultice to help soothe inflamed thorn wounds, and would make tea from the roots to wean infants.
The leaves of the plant have sedative properties, and the flower itself has some nutritional value that is typically used as a supplement.
There are many people that use the passion flower as an earthy note in tea, which some people prefer to sweeten with sugar, as it can add a bitterness that some people prefer to balance out.
The passion fruit vine (see also Best Flowering Climbers) is also cultivated to grow passion fruit, which is instantly recognizable both on the vine, resembling a darker apricot, and its characteristically colorful flesh on the inside.