May-pop, Passion-Flower (Passiflora incarnata)Passion-flower
has long attracted the attention of amateurs and botanists alike. This hardy
perennial vine comes from a family of mainly tropical plants. Its genus,
Passiflora, is the only genus of its family in the United States. Two species
occur in our state, incarnata and lutea. Lutea is the yellow passion-flower only
rarely seen. Incarnata is the purple one, common and beautiful.
incarnata (usually called May-pop) has a blossom with five sepals and five
petals. It has a crown or corona of white or lavender fringe banded with purple.
In the center of the blossom is a column of united stamens enclosing a pistil
with three heads (stigmas). This beautiful complex blossom is exquisite in
This plant is a vine ten feet to twenty feet long, with alternate
leaves. The leaves are from two and one-half to six inches long and wide. Each
leaf is palmately three-lobed with finely serrated edges. At the base of each
blade are two small bumps (nectar-bearing glands).
The flower buds come in
the axils of the leaves, as do long tendrils which the vine uses for climbing
over whatever is near it. The fruit is an edible leathery berry (the may-pop).
It is the size and shape of a hen egg; green at first and turning yellowish as
it ripens. When stomped, it makes a loud pop. It blooms from late May
It is called Passion-flower because the early explorers
thought there was some resemblance in the structure of the blossom to the
implements of the crucifixion.
They grew wild in our backyard until my parents planted a huge garden. I loved playing with them. Maybe May Pops was my first real introduction to storytelling. There were various tales about the flowers. We used to tell one about a lady with a hat carrying two loaves of bread. You could pluck parts of the flowers and make the lady. Then there was the fruit. What a great sound it make when popped.
I got my May Pop plant last week and today planted it. I can't wait to see those flowers. There still seems something wrong about paying good money for something that grew wild. But, it will be worth it. If you want yours go to Gurneys. They are only $7.95.