Passiflora foetida: Stinking passionflower

Family: Passifloraceae
Common name: Stinking passionflower, Love-in-a-mist, Bush passion fruit, Stoneflower, Fetid passion flower

Stinking passionflower plants can grow up to 9 meters in height by climbing on walls, or on surrounding vegetation. Though its fruits are edible, the bad odor of the plant keeps it away from gardens.

The stems are thin and wiry, covered with tiny yellow hairs; though the lower part of the stem could be brown and woody. Leaves are usually trilobate, but sometimes 5-lobed or entire.

Stinking passionflowers are white or light cream in color, about 5-6 cms in diameter, with beautiful white corona filaments forming a layer above the petals. The ovary, style and stigma are also distinctly raised above the petals.

Fruits are green in color when young and covered with net-like bracts which help distinguish this plant. These bracts exude a sticky substance that helps trap insects, preventing them from eating young fruits. The fruits turn yellow when mature, with black seeds inside having a mild sweet flavor.

These net-like bracts are initially green covering the entire fruit, but turn brown when the fruits mature.

The flowers and fruits are preferred by insects, bees and ants that help pollinate them. Birds and bats eat the sweet fruit, helping in seed dispersal. Stinking passionflower plants can spread very quickly over large areas, making them invasive weeds especially in agricultural areas. They are commonly seen in hillsides, open areas, unoccupied land and roadsides.

Small buds are edible, but young fruits should not be eaten since they contain cyanides which disappear when the fruits mature. The plants are used in traditional herbal medicine in treatment of stomach ailments, pain, burns, asthma and heart diseases.

Propagation is through seeds.

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