Maypop, a Native Butterfly and Bee Magnet

Purple passionvine flower.

Passionvine has a wonderfully complex flower.

Passionvine, purple passion flower, maypop (Passiflora incarnata) is a beautiful perennial native vine with a wonderfully complex flower with crimped petal-like tepals. It dies back to the ground in the winter, but pops up in more places the next spring–in May usually. It’s widely distributed from Florida to Texas and northward to Pennsylvania. It can be propagated by cuttings, seed, or by digging up its sprouts when they’ve come up in an inconvenient place.

The plants were given the name passionflower or passionvine by early Spanish explorers because the floral parts were once said to represent aspects of the Christian crucifixion story or the Passion. The ten petal-like parts represent the disciples, excluding Peter and Judas; the five stamens the wounds Jesus received; the knob-like stigmas the nails; the fringe the crown of thorns. The more mundane name “maypop” comes from its sprouting from dormancy in May and that the hollow, ripened fruits that pop loudly when crushed.

Like most gardeners, I love beautiful plants that attract many pollinators. And for a vine like this, adorning the trelliswork is the ideal location. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Passionvines invite bees and other pollinators to your garden.

 

Passion fruit and waiting bee.

I look forward to making juice from its fruit. It is the passion fruit that gives Hawaiian Punch its zip. And I love watching the carpenter bees waiting for the flower to open in the morning.

But…

The zebra longwing butterfly

The zebra longwing butterfly is Florida’s state butterfly and while it’s great to plant all types of nectars sources for it in your butterfly garden, you won’t attract a stable population unless you plant passionvine.

This plant is also the larval host plant for gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae), variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia), Julia (Dryas iulia) and zebra longwing (Heliconius charitonius) butterflies.

It’s said that if the passionvine grows in the shade, it will attract the zebra longwing, our state butterfly. I haven’t seen many of the zebra longwing larvae, so I can’t really verify that, but I have witnessed a lot of the gulf fritillary activity in the sun or the shade.

 

Gulf fritillary female butterfly

The female gulf fritillary butterfly first “tastes” the leaf with her feet and then she lays her eggs…

 

gulf fritillary eggs and larva

The female lays her eggs not in a neat row, but scattered across the plant.

The scattershot egg laying gives her hungry offspring a fighting chance to survive. First, if a lizard or some other predator finds an egg, the other eggs are at some distance. Second, the hungry larvae have their own leaf area to themselves at first. Actually the first thing the larva does after hatching is to eat its own egg, but then it gets serious about eating leaves.

Did I say hungry??

Passionvine covered with caterpillars

Wow! These hungry fritillary catrpillars ate the whole vine and the fruits, too.

 

Now that vine on the trellis may not so beautiful to others, but for me, I love a moth-eaten or butterfly-eaten landscape. My name is Ginny and I am a butterfly gardener! Won’t you join me as a full-fledged member of Butterfly Gardeners Annoymous (BGA) and proudly proclaim your butterfly-eaten landscape to be beautiful?

© 2012 – 2014, Ginny Stibolt. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. Carole says

    Enroll me in BGA. I purchased some additional maypops recently. The owner tried to steer me to the plants without chewed leaves. I knew that just meant they tasted good. I have to relocate my cats to my neighbors’ vines when my leaves are all gone. I notice that my native maypops are eaten down to the stem while the cultivars show little leaf damage.

  2. says

    Ginny, please accept my committed membership to BGA! The first thing I do when I see holes in leaves is try to figure out who’s hiding under there!

    I had no idea that passion flower was a native.What gorgeous flowers. But..as usual I will have to admire from a planting zone far, far away…
    Ellen Sousa recently posted..Mulch – Use What You’ve Got!

    • says

      Hi Gail, It would be best for the longterm survival of the plant if the butterflies don’t find it for a while. Let the plant become established first. I have some to transplant from where sprouts popped up in the middle of a mulched path. I’m thinking of putting a net over the new plant for a few weeks.
      But you’re right, members of BGA cheer when a plant is eaten.
      Ginny Stibolt recently posted..Maypop, a native butterfly & bee magnet

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