Passiflora comprises over 500 species, mostly of tropical origin, plus the 700-plus hybrid forms that plant breeders have coaxed from its genes, some with flowers as big as a dinner plate and others that match every color of the rainbow.
The exotic form of Passion Flower seems as if it could have emerged from the imagination of a half-crazed artist and it certainly invokes the passion of gardeners who revel in the intricate arrangement of the lacy filaments and the prominent geometry of its stigmas, anthers, sepals and petals.
Not just for gazing at, the fruit of passiflora is consumed throughout the tropics and is as diverse in form as the flowers. Many are familiar with the passion fruit flavor found in tropical-themed beverages, which comes from the small round purple varieties, known as maracujá in Brazil, but there are also species that produce fruit the size of a football that is steamed and eaten like squash.
The passion referred to in the name has a sacred context, rather than worldly. The radial filaments are said to represent a crown of thorns; the three stigmas are a reference to three infamous nails securing a man to a cross; and the five anthers reflect the five wounds suffered by a man from Nazareth over 2000 years ago: the passion in passionflower is that of Jesus Christ.