Sunday, November 26, 2017

Yellow passionvine - Passiflora lutea

Yellow passionvine (Passiflora lutea) is native to the Florida panhandle and a very few counties in the upper peninsula. It also is found throughout the South and Midwest from Texas and Nebraska to Maryland and Pennsylvania on the East Coast. Throughout this extended range, it is most often encountered in the understory of deciduous woodlands in moist to mesic conditions.
In many respects, yellow passionvine occupies the same role (niche) as winged maypop (P. suberosa) does in the rest of Florida. It can go largely unnoticed in the landscape when butterflies are not fluttering about it. The leaves are three-lobed, but much wider than long and often with silvery markings along the leaf veins - best seen in the top photo. Flowering occurs in late spring and summer, and as the name suggests, the blooms are a pale yellow in color. Each flower is small and can go unnoticed. Deep-purple fruit follow about a month later.
Yellow passionvine is the preferred host plant for zebra heliconian butterflies in north Florida for much the same reasons as winged maypop fills this role further south. Gulf fritillary butterflies will use it also if the plant extends itself into a sunny location.
This passionvine is only rarely offered for sale by nurseries affiliated with the Florida Association of Native Nurseries (FANN), but it is sometimes offered by native nurseries to our immediate north. I have not had success with this species in my Pinellas County landscape and do not recommend it for locations outside its natural range.  If you decide to grow it, plant it in a rich woodland soil, in dappled light. Over time, it will spread by underground stems and by bird-planted fruit.

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