Sometimes the simplest ideas turn out to be the biggest challenge. I'm all set to highlight Passiflora in my garden as a great butterfly host plant for the August edition of Wildflower Wednesday. I can't get much closer to home when it comes to native plants than this Passiflora foetida grown from seed collected along the utility easement behind our back fence. Or is it Passiflora foetida? I checked the NPIN database at The Wildflower Center and noted their photo, especially the leaves, showed significant differences from mine. Clearly this was more complicated than I thought. After much searching I found no other Passiflora photos that looked any closer to the one in my garden so I'm going with Passiflora foetida and noting some plant characteristics may vary.
Common names include Corona de cristo and Fetid (stinky!) Passionflower. Since these grow nearby without any supplemental water and care I follow nature's lead and let them scramble with just an occasional dose of water from the hose when nearby drought-tolerant plants need water.
Passiflora flowers open early and close just as soon as the sun hits.
Caged bloom buds and seeds add interest along the vine and you can see (above and below) where the cage-like sepals fold out and back in as the flower opens and closes with light.
Available information is all over the place on the native/invasive status of Passiflora foetida. Combining information from several sources I find Passiflora foetida is native to deep South Texas and has spread northward to San Antonio. It's not even close to being invasive in our climate but introduced to tropical climates like Hawaii it can form a dense mat and smother native plants. I would love to have it spread a bit more as it is the exclusive larval host for Gulf Frittilary butterflies we have in abundance. In fact we've had a dry summer and the vines in the wild are parched so it's a good thing to give a few of these at home in my garden. It is also a host for the stunning Zebra Longwing butterfly which aren't seen often enough in my garden.
Another Zebra Longwing host, Passiflora lutea or Yellow passionflower, turned up by surprise in my garden a few years ago. Since it looks similar to Snailseed vine I almost pulled it but caught myself just in time and decided to research first. At first I was stumped because I compared it to P. affinis which didn't look exactly right. A post to the Facebook group Texas Flora quickly pointed me to P. Lutea with a caveat to wait for blooms to be sure.
Happily Passiflora lutea has returned each year and grown from a small sprout to present tiny yellow blooms for the first time this summer. Passiflora lutea prefers part shade and moist soil so it planted itself in the right spot near a barrel planter I water frequently.
Host to several butterflies including the same Gulf Fritillary and Zebra Longwing which are attracted to Passiflora foetida featured above.
Given the success of these two Passiflora vines I'll try to add Passiflora incarnata which is one native Passionvine currently missing from my blooming collection.
Bring on the butterflies!
Wildflower Wednesday is hosted on the fourth Wednesday of each month by Gail at Clay and Limestone. She always has informative posts on wonderful native plants so be sure to check out her blog for links to participating blogs as well.