Maypop, Passiflora incarnata

Maypops: Food, Fun, Medicine

As popular as they are, Maypops get stepped on a lot, but that doesn’t keep them down.

They are one of five hundred kin in the passion flower family, specifically Passiflora incarnata (pass-siff-FLOR-ruh in-kar-NAY-tuh.) Passiflora  means “passion flower” and incarnata means “in the flesh.” A relative, Passiflora edulis (pass-siff-FLOR-ruh ED-yoo-liss = edible) is used flavor Hawaiian Punch. When the flowering vine was first discovered by Spanish explorers in  Florida in 1529 the shape of the blossom captured their imagination and they described it as a symbol for the “Passion of Christ.”

Passiflora foetida

Passion flowers do have complex blossoms. P. incarnata is two to three inches across with 10 white tepals in a shallow bowl with a fringe of purple and white filaments, called a corona. The center is a white stigma with five stamens. The vine is long a trailing with three-lobed leaves. It can grow six feet a season and several feet wide. The vines blossom for a long time and  set fruit over the same period so one vine can have old and young fruit at the same time. Shaped like a egg, the fruit starts out green and hollow and eventually fills with a kind of jelly and seeds while also turning yellow on the outside.  Finding the fruit is rather sporadic since woodland creatures like them as well and dine at night. Caution: Maypops’ green skin is edible raw but too many can burn the mouth. The rind is better cooked. The pulp-covered seeds in a green or yellow maypop are quit edible.

“Maypops” is a two-season name. Here in Florida and other parts of the south they can blossom in May. But the fruits don’t get big enough to step on and “pop” until June or July. The name comes from “maracock” which is what the Powhatan Indians called it. And though thought of a “southern” wild fruit, Maypops grow as far north as Pennsylvania and west to Kansas, south to Texas, central Florida and Bermuda. Under cultivation P. incarnata likes full sun to partial shade, light, evenly moist soil. Deciduous, it can take temperatures down to 5F. In the wild they grow in sunny areas with good drainage, at the top of a berm, not the bottom. Many caterpillars like the Maypop including the Gulf Fritillary and Zebra Wing Butterfly.

Passiflora lutea

If you find a tiny passion flower that is off yellow with small fruit that’s deep purple/black when ripe, it’s the Passiflora lutea (LOO-tee-uh = yellow) edible but not too tasty, used to make ink. It likes to grow in wet areas. Don’t mistake it for a wild cucumber,  Melothria pendula, which have leaves that smell like cucumber. When M. pendual’s fruit is black it is the mother of all laxatives.  The Passiflora suberosa (sou-ber-OH-sah = corky) with blue fruit is also edible (the fruit.)  The Passiflora foetida, common in south Florida, has red fruit as is edible as well, quite tasty with very thin skin.

Oddly, while native to North America, Maypops are far more popular in Europe. Americans used make jelly out of them, the Indians cooked the leaves in fat.  Europeans currently make pharmaceuticals. The fresh and dried whole plant has been used to treat nervous anxiety and insomnia. It is the most common ingredient in herbal sedatives in Europe. In Europe a teaspoon of dried, ground plant is used in a tea. Even a sedative gum has been made with Maypop. The active ingredient(s) is unknown. See the “herb blurb” below. Perhaps the Maypop vine is medicinal: It smells and tastes bad, as does most medicine that is good for you. What does the vine smell like? Like an old rubber shoe. The fruit, fortunately, does not share that…. too much.  Oh, and this will not make sense until you consider the general shape of the leaves and fruit: The Maypop is a relative of the papaya.

Other Passifloras with edible fruit include: P. alata, P. ambigua, P. ampullacea, P. antioquiensis, P. caerulea, P. coccinea, P. cumbalensis, P. x decaisneana, P. edulis f. flavicarpa,  P. laurifolia, P. lingularis, P. maliformis, P. manicata, P. mixta, P. mollissima, P. organensis, P. pinnatistipula, P. platyloba, P. popenovii, P. quadrangularis, P. serrato-digitata, P. tripartita, and P. vitifolia.

Lastly, the Internet is the Great Garbage Can of Misinformation and amateur writers. Of late sites have been proliferating the nonsense that Passiflora incarnata has cyanide in it. It categorically does not. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines by Andrea Peirce states: “Unlike other Passiflora species, … [the] Passionflower does not contain the poison cyanide, as some sources incorrectly suggest; they may have mistaken Passiflora incarnata for Passiflora caerulea, the ornamental blue passionflower that does contain this toxin.”

Passiflora foetida also has some cyanide in it as evidence by some research on goats feeding on the foliage. However, I have eaten a fruit or two at a time with no problem. Goats, of course, eat leaves so they can get a higher concentration of cyanide. The passion fruit used in Hawaiian Punch, Passiflora edulis, has to be limited to goats as well, less than 45 percent of their feed.

I would add that cooking or sometimes mascerating green parts of edible plants with small small amounts of hydro- or glycocyanides releases the cyanide. Also note the “Herb Blurb” below. P. incarnata has some MAO inhibitors. MAO inhibitors and chocolate should not be combined.

Maypop Jelly

2 cups ripe maypops, sliced
1 cup water
2-1/2 cups sugar
1-3/4 ounces pectin

Combine the maypops and water, and boil gently for five minutes. Strain, discarding the pulp. Combine the liquid and sugar and bring to full rolling boil. Add pectin, and again bring to rolling boil. Remove from heat, pour into hot, sterilized jars, and seal. Makes 2-1/2 pints.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: (Passiflora incarnata) The passion flower is a woody vine that grows up to 30 feet long and climbs with tendrils. It has striking, large white flowers with pink or purple centers. Leaves are three lobed and the fruit egg-shaped going from green to yellow or orange when ripe.

TIME OF YEAR: In Florida it starts fruiting in June with early fruit ripening around August. Farther north the ripening is towards fall Can be propagated by seed or cutting, cuttings are slow to root.

ENVIRONMENT: Maypops grow in thickets, disturbed ground, unkept pastures, roadsides and railroads. They like full sun and water but good drainage. You will not find them in damp areas.

METHOD OF PREPARATION:Green and yellow ripe maypops off the vine, though larger green ones are better than small ones. They can be made in to a jelly or an ade.  Green ones better cooked than raw, yellow ones are nice raw. Leaves can be cooked like a green. With other passionflower eat only the fruit.

HERB BLURB:

According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Website: Derived from the aerial parts of the plant. Patients use this herb to treat insomnia, anxiety, epilepsy, neuralgia, and withdrawal syndromes from opiates or benzodiazepines. The active component of passionflower is unknown. The alkaloid components (e.g. harman, harmaline) are thought to produce monoamine oxidase inhibition, while the maltol and gamma-pyrone derivatives cause activation of GABA receptors (4). Reported adverse events include sedation, dizziness, impaired cognitive function, and one case report of nausea, vomiting, and ECG changes. All adverse events subside following discontinuation of passionflower (7) (8). Theoretically, passionflower may potentiate the sedative effect of centrally acting substances (e.g. benzodiazepines, barbiturates, alcohol) (10). A small pilot study evaluated passionflower for generalized anxiety and showed comparable efficacy to oxazepam (8), but a systematic review concluded that randomized controlled studies are needed to confirm such effects (12). Passionflower may be of use in combination with clonidine for opiate detoxification, but additional research is required. No standardization exists for passionflower extract, therefore dosages and activities may vary.

 

 

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

roswitha phillips June 14, 2017 at 12:34

I am looking for some information on how and when to harvest leaves and blossoms for tee. Can anyone help with that information?

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Green Deane June 17, 2017 at 18:19

Simmering fresh green leaves if the Passiflora incarnata make a tea. As for the blossoms, those if the Passiflora incarnata are edible raw. The caution is make sure you are using Passiflora incarnata. Other passion flowers have some cyanide in their leaves.

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Robert July 2, 2016 at 16:38

Here in NW MO my P incarnata vines grow over 9′ in a single season. The emerge from the ground in mid May to early June and they go over the top of a 9′ fence and down the other side. I’d estimate the longest of them reach 12′. This is in clay soil without irrigation or fertilizer.

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Kenneth Kerr October 27, 2016 at 01:08

Robert I am in NW MO as well, Chillicothe to be exact, and was curious if P caerulea, grow well here also? does yours do ok through the winters here?

I have P caerulea, and P incarnate coming soon and was also curious if I go ahead and plant them now or wait till spring??

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Yen shifflett June 29, 2016 at 21:35

I have some young plants which my girlfriend gave me.can I plant outside or just keep in the pot and bring inside when the weather getting cold.I live in Northern Virginia.Thank you.

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Joe June 15, 2016 at 22:17

Hey Deane, just wanted to send you note of thanks on this article. I read this 2 years ago and soon afterward found some fruit growing while on a walk with the dogs. I planted the seeds and now have 2 huge vines growing on my fence. I harvested over 40 last winter and scooped out the flesh and froze it in ice cube trays. I added a few cubes to my morning smoothie along with my backyard papaya and a scoop of frozen American nightshade berries (the nightshade grew wild in my garden to enormous size). I appreciate all the info you have passed along. I definitely keep my eyes open everywhere I go now looking for edibles.

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biologist January 5, 2017 at 05:37

Nightshade is POISONOUS.

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RLM March 10, 2017 at 20:36

Dear biologist – Unless Green Deane decides to forward this message to you, you won’t receive it, but… it would be a good idea to look up the article here on EatTheWeeds regarding American nightshade, aka common or black nightshade. Though closely related to more toxic relatives, the ripe berries have been enjoyed by many people over many long years, and are not toxic.

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Richard Wall April 14, 2016 at 13:27

How could I get rid of this fruit? I’ve tried keeping an area of it tilled under but it seems to spread it. Its robbing nutrients in my soil for other plants.

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Green Deane April 14, 2016 at 15:56

Eat it is my only advice in that how to control said is beyond my area of expertise.

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Kerryn Solomon February 21, 2016 at 16:25

Hi My horses eat the vine,can this do them any harm?

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Green Deane February 29, 2016 at 18:21

Not that I know of.

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Priscilla Ola November 19, 2015 at 07:50

I bought a passion flower and tasted the flower it was very sweet like sugar. Are flowers on all types sweet?

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Green Deane November 19, 2015 at 08:51

No, some taste mighty bad.

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Janice September 28, 2015 at 19:41

We were observing many plants on the property for years, watching and wondering before they got mowed and/or covered up with weeds. This year I pulled one up by the roots and put it in another spot where it could run over an old split rail fence. Beautiful. Did well. We have 8 fruits on it now…just waiting to harvest. Thanks for the jelly recipe. Eager to try it, and I’m going to harvest and dry the leaves for a tea. Super excited. We are in the piedmont area in NC.

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oldwhatshisname September 21, 2015 at 14:59

I have the maypop growing wild at my place in middle Tennessee. The vine surfaced out of the forest and along the edge of my garden this year. I’m going to try dehydrating the fruit and leaves to use for a sleep aid. Fresh or frozen leaves make a great bedtime tea.

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Charley August 20, 2015 at 10:51

Hi G.D., We cook the flower in batter like a fritter. They are delightful – especially with a little maple syrup on top – or without the syrup. Have you ever tried that? We do the same with common day lilies, and dandelion flowers. Do you know of any problem with any of these?

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Brenda Long May 19, 2015 at 12:45

I used to find these on the ditch banks around my home in North Carolina and us kids used to love to take the flower and pull some of the leaves off and make it look like a ballerina. It has been a long time since I have seen any. They remind me so much of my childhood. Did not know they were edible. Would love to see some again.

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Janice September 28, 2015 at 19:33

Brenda, Did your spouse work at a local hospital for many years? If so, I think I know you.

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Evelyn Avis March 28, 2015 at 21:34

The passionflower grows wild in Camden, S.C/ Used to love how pretty they are when I was a child.

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chris March 19, 2015 at 10:53

I have just discovered them flowering in West Palm Beach. After reading your article this seems to be the wrong time of year for P. incarnata. Am I wrong as I want to harvest and dry some….??

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Green Deane March 19, 2015 at 19:55

West Palm Beach? I have a class there Sunday. More to the point, it is probably P. foetica, which has edible ripe fruit.

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Allen October 31, 2014 at 00:16

As a child on our family farm in north Florida, my playmates and I treasured the ripe maypops for their fragrant , tropical flavor. Quite a treat. They had to be very ripe and shriveled on the vine , to be of the best flavor. I have ate dozens of these fruits! As far as planting these it was more of a nuisance plant, but if you could get a rooted vine up with enough roots it would certainly be a quick way to get it going, be safe try seeds as well, good luck

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George September 6, 2014 at 01:01

I recently found these in my yard, did some research and landed on your blog. Thanks for all of the great information. I will be moving soon and I would like to have these at my next home. When is the best time to harvest either the seeds or clippings for propogating? Which is more successful? Do I want a clipping or do I dig up an already rooted plant and transplant it? How should I prepare/store the seeds? When is the best time to plant them? Thanks in advance!

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Ryan August 31, 2014 at 11:08

I just recently discovered many maypops growing along a fence enclosing horses. The fruit are a nice size and getting soft but still green. I want to harvest them before the horses do. Can i pick them and let them yellow off the vine? And as far as cooking them- just slice the whole fruit and fry or should i remove the rind?

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Green Deane August 31, 2014 at 20:25

The won’t ripen any more if you pick them when green. They will shrivel up.

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Jeremy Goulet August 28, 2014 at 23:44

In your video you say you can eat the egg-sized green fruits out of hand raw. Do you eat the entire fruit or just the seeds or peels?

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Green Deane August 29, 2014 at 12:46

Green maypops can be cooked like green tomatoes and eaten. You can try eating the pulpy inside of a green one but often the insides have not developed that much appreciated sweet-sour taste. Ripe one can be eaten raw and after a few they are kind of rough on the mouth.

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Veda June 27, 2014 at 18:53

I’m more or less new to identifying herbs and finding their edible uses. I haven’t tried making tea from Maypops/Purple Passionflower/Passiflora Incarnata because I don’t know how much water to use with, say, a teaspoon of the dried, crushed leaves. Any tips?

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Green Deane July 7, 2014 at 16:04

It varies from person to person and use to use. Start with a very small pinch in a cup and sort it out from there.

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Don May 18, 2014 at 19:33

I was on here looking for info on the little green passion flower that I discovered covering the tops of my bougainvilla. I tried the small, round, ripe fruit and it was almost tasteless. I was wondering if it could be made into a tasteful jelly though?

Also, I had the incarnata growing under my pines when I lived in Lakeland and they grow along the old rails-to-trails paths like the Withlacoochee Trail. I had a ton of them on a lanai screen once and the fratillery butterflies swarmed it.

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lawrence December 21, 2013 at 17:14

i have a passionflower vine growing in my yard. it was here when i moved in 7 years ago. gulf fritillary butterflies use it each season as an hatchery. in all this time it has produced no fruit, only blue flowers and i have made tea from the leaves a few times. now i am concerned it may be the toxic variety. the leaves are not three lobed as you describe here, but more often five lobed. their appearance is reminiscent of a splayed hand with progressively shorter leaves from the middle leaf to the outer leaves. is this not p.incarnata?

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Dee September 9, 2013 at 18:35

We have passion flowers growing outside our fence in a somewhat thicket of weeds. They were never planted. Can birds replant them as they do many other plants? Only this year, we discovered black-eyed susans in our natural area. They were not planted either. We have lived at this residence for 16 years. I am amazed at other plants we have found on this property as well. What can I do with the passion flower that would be beneficial healthwise, anything?
Enjoyed this blog.
Thank you in advance for your response to my question.
Dee

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Green Deane September 10, 2013 at 08:54

Yes, maypops are spread around by birds and animals.

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Charles Martin August 10, 2013 at 22:52

When I was a kid in the 1930s, maypops grew in profusion along the Blue Ridge Railroad in the South Carolina Piedmont region. Only we called them Molly-pops. The greeen ones made great golf balls to go with my uncle’s hickory shaft clubs. The ripe seeds made a succulent snack. I don’t see them anymore. What a loss to today’s kids!

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Ginger June 3, 2013 at 07:08

I bought passionflower leaves once at a huge farmer’s market last year, but never saw them offered again. I used them in a smoothie and it was delicious! What variety do you suppose that might have been?

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Melissa Thomas May 23, 2013 at 22:30

I have wild passionflower or Maypops I guess growing all over the yard and they make fruit which is loaded with black seeds which when finally ripe to near rotten smell divine but there is not much worth eating fruitwise. I have recently gotten chickens and want to make sure there is no potential harm to them. The one hen that was laying when I got her has recently stopped laying after a couple weeks and I just want to eliminate that as a possible culprit. Thanks so much 🙂

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Green Deane May 24, 2013 at 07:21

A maypop with black seeds… doesn’t sound immediately familiar.

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Kim Jones April 8, 2013 at 23:47

Maypop, Passiflora incarnata
I have this vine growing along my back fence in tropical Queensland, Australia (the Gold Coast) and have read about it helping with anxiety ! How do I dry the flower to make a tea – can you advise please, and also can the green fruit only be eaten when it ripens and falls off the vine? thank you

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Green Deane April 9, 2013 at 20:38

You can use the flower fresh or dry but the flavor is not that great. The green fruit is edible if sliced and cooked. Then it ripens to yellow. You can eat the inside then. Usually they wrinkle badly before droping off the vine.

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TCosta February 27, 2013 at 15:05

I planted one at my parents’ place, along a fence, and it does come up all over. If one wanted to restrict its spreading, do you think putting it underground and in a pot would be useful? If so, what would be a good sized pot that would allow for it to have decent growth in a season? Thanks.

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Charlotte Brinkley October 22, 2012 at 15:47

I have two plants (Maypops) that I planted in late May, they have really
grown and I have them running up a trellis. There seems to be a problem
with them comming up all over my back yard. My husband wants to dig the plant up. He thinks the new shoots are coming from the roots is this
normal. I live in Florida so it is warm most of the time.

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Green Deane October 24, 2012 at 11:50

They will come up all over your yard.

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shaina muth September 25, 2012 at 22:42

I have a plant growing in my yard that is a passiflora incarnata, however I have yet to see it produce any fruit. I believe the plant was purchased and planted originally. How come it has not fruited? It flowers year round.

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Green Deane September 26, 2012 at 07:44

Cultivated versions are often fruitless, raised only for their blossoms.

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Granjero Organico August 12, 2012 at 14:30

Knowing that some passiflora fruits and plants may be toxic, I am wondering if the plants of the maypop or passiflora edulis would be toxic to my goats. They could be usefull in controlling unwanted spreading, while serving as winter forage when the plants die back for the winter. But I definately don’t want them to get sick or die from the plant.

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Green Deane August 13, 2012 at 09:19
Josh August 5, 2012 at 17:53

Is Passiflora Lutea edible? If so how would I go about making a tea? I have several vines on my fence with tons of flowers on them.

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Green Deane August 7, 2012 at 06:28

The fruit is eidble but not that interesting. I don’t recall that one can use that species for tea. Usually it is the Passiflora incarnata leaves for a sedative tea.

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Rhiannon July 22, 2012 at 11:01

I just found your website and I am in LOVE!! I recently bought a piece of property in Northwest Arkansas that borders Hobbs State Park Conservation Area. It is flourishing with Maypops!! I was wondering how to prepare teas safely? Also, do you have any recipes for making jams?

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Green Deane July 25, 2012 at 21:57

If you will revisit the article on my site I have added a Maypop Jelly recipe.

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Shelli January 17, 2013 at 23:49

This past summer I found a plant that I believe to be a Passion flower. We also live in NWArkansas. How do I tell what variety it is and what the best use will be for it. When I first found it, the fruit was green and hollow. Nothing inside the pod. Smelled very green but not fruity. Any info would help. Thanks

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Green Deane January 18, 2013 at 06:31

Find a picture of it… post it on the Green Deane Forum where we talk about wild edibles all year.

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Andrew February 1, 2014 at 12:25

The fruit will be yellow and look old and wrinkly when ripe. the green fruit will remain relatively hollow.

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TON11111@LIVE.COM November 22, 2011 at 22:18

i am not sure – the question to you- do all passifloras have the same looking flowers?

i am not sure – it is fruiting in november or atleast the fruits are there but not ripe which doesnt match the itemize guidelines

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Green Deane November 23, 2011 at 07:47

They have a basic resemblance but can vary in size and color and emphasis of this part or that.

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TON11111@LIVE.COM November 21, 2011 at 19:13

YES , THERE IS A CREEPING CUCUMBER RIGHT NEXT TO IT , CREEPING CUCUMBERS HAVE YELLOW FLOWERS AND THE CUCUMERS ARE LITTLE MOTTLED AND TURN BLACK WHEN RIPE – THESE HAVE THE PASSION FLOWER TYPE FLOWERS WHITE WITH PURPLE WITH ALL THE STAMEN AND INTRICATE STRUCTURES – BUT THE FRUITS ARE VERY SMALL SMALLER THAN THE CUCUMBERS

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Green Deane November 21, 2011 at 19:28

Then is it passiflora lutea?

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TON11111@LIVE.COM November 21, 2011 at 17:56

DO ALL PASSAFLORA FLOWERS LOOK SIMILAR, I HAVE A PLANT THAT LOOKS LIKE Passiflora lutea, it has small fruits that are green on it now in november and the flower looks like the passionfruit flowers that i am familiar with?

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Green Deane November 21, 2011 at 18:14

Have read my article on the creeping cucumber? This time of year one might confuse one for the other.

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