Have you always wanted to grow a passion vine but have too much shade to grow the showy purple Passiflora incarnata? Or perhaps you have a butterfly garden and are interested in providing one of the host plants for Gulf Fritillary, Julia and Zebra Longwing butterflies? Well, if you don’t mind having a Lilliputian passion flower that is only about an inch in diameter, then Passiflora lutea is for you.
Passiflora lutea is also known as yellow passionflower, though the color of the flowers may range from chartreuse to off-white. It is a native plant in Texas that blooms from May through September. In Dallas it is considered a perennial herbaceous climbing or trailing vine that can reach 15 feet in height. Here it will loose its wide shallowly-lobed leaves in the winter but it comes back reliably in the spring. The fall leaf color is a shade of yellow. Though considered somewhat drought tolerant once established, P. lutea prefers moist, rich soil. Its flowers are followed by small black berries, which some say are edible but not very tasty.
I have P. lutea growing wild in my shady yard near White Rock Lake. If I don’t keep an eye on it, the vines can grow rampantly in some spots. However they are very easy to pull off from wherever they are growing. I also have one pot of purple Passiflora incarnata and have noticed that the Gulf Fritillary butterfles tend to prefer to lay their eggs on P. incarnata rather than P. lutea. However, one of my neighbors had P. lutea growing in her yard and had many caterpillars feeding on it.
One of the historic uses for the berries has been to make ink. A recommended recipe is: ½ cup of P. lutea berries, ½ tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. vinegar. Crush the berries, and then strain the liquid through a fine sieve. Then add the salt and vinegar. Though this ink is not archival, the deep purple-black color is pretty
Yellow passionflower is not often found in most garden centers. However, Roseann Ferguson says that the annual plant sale at Texas Discovery Gardens will carry it. The dates for this year’s fall sale are September 15-16 with the member-only sale taking place on the 15. Many of their unusual plants sell out quickly, so get there early and consider becoming a member. Further information about the plants that will be for sale will be posted on Texas Discovery Garden’s website (www.txdg.org) closer to the date of the sale.