Yellow Passion Flower

Passiflora lutea

yellow_passion_flower_flowers_7-18-14.jpg

Photo of yellow passionflower flowers.
The yellowish-green flowers of yellow passion flower are intricate, with numerous fringed parts.
Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Other Common Name
Yellow Passionflower
Family

Passifloraceae (passion flowers)

Description

A herbaceous perennial vine, climbing by tendrils. Flowers 1–3, arising from leaf axils, about 1 inch across, each on a stalk to 1½ inches long; yellowish-green flowers with numerous fringed floral parts. Blooms May–August. Leaves alternate, shallowly three-lobed, to 4½ inches long and 6 inches wide, on stalks up to 2½ inches long. Fruits egg-shaped or nearly spherical berries containing seeds surrounded by pulpy material, green becoming dark purple at maturity, about ½ inch long.

Similar species: Missouri’s other passion flower is Maypops (P. incarnata), which has larger, purple and white flowers, fruits to 2½ inches long, and deeply 3-lobed leaves.

Size

Stem length: 2–13 feet or longer.

yellow_passion_flower_plant_7-18-14.jpg

Photo of yellow passionflower showing leaves, buds, flowers, and immature fruit.
Yellow Passion Flower
Yellow passion flower is an herbaceous perennial vine, climbing by tendrils. The leaves are shallowly three-lobed and can be 6 inches wide.

yellow_passion_flower_7-18-14.jpg

Photo of yellow passionflower showing leaves, tendrils, flowers, buds, and more.
Yellow Passion Flower
In Missouri, yellow passion flower is scattered mostly south of the Missouri River. It blooms May–August.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in bottomland forests, rich upland forests, bases and ledges of bluffs, margins of glades, and banks of streams and rivers; also occasionally in old fields, fencerows, and roadsides. Look for it in low alluvial ground and open, rocky woodlands.

image of Yellow Passion Flower Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Scattered, mostly south of the Missouri River.

Status

Globally, there are about 500–600 species in the passion flower family (Passifloraceae). Most grow in tropical and warm-temperate regions across the world. Like orchids, their unusual, even bizarre flowers correspond with fascinating interactions with insect pollinators. Based on their tendrils and fruit structure, passion flowers were long thought to be related to the cucumber family. Genetic evidence is showing they are more closely related to violets and willows.

Human connections

The unusual floral structures of this family inspired the name passion flower, due to an imaginative correspondence of its parts to the Christ crucifixion story. Many passion flowers are grown as ornamentals, and some are grown commercially for the fruit.

Ecosystem connections

Wasps commonly visit the flowers of this species and may be important pollinators. Farther south, people plant passion flowers in their gardens because they are larval food plants for the butterflies Gulf fritillary, Julia, and zebra longwing. The last is the state butterfly of Florida.