Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Legend of the Passionflower

     There are a couple of legends having to do with the naming of the Passionflower which I posted about just recently. My favorite (myself being of Peruvian descent) goes back to 1620 when a Jesuit priest came across a beautiful plant in Peru. That night, he said he experienced a vision in his sleep that revealed the symbolism of this beautiful plant representing the suffering of Jesus Christ during his crucifixion, what is referred to as the "Passion of Christ."
     The plant he believed was revealed to him so it could be used to help explain the crucifixion and suffering (passion) of Christ to others. He thought it would be useful to help in the conversion of the native Inca people to Christianity (something already being done by the sword and by the cross). In his vision, the various parts of the plant could be used to help teach about the "Passion of Christ" and so all members of this plant family came to be referred to as "passionflowers."
     The symbolism breaks down like this according to legend:
  • The leaves represented the head of the Centurion's spear that was used against Jesus.
  • The spiraling tendrils the vine uses to climb represented the whips used to scourge and lash him. 
  • The central flower column was seen as the pillar Jesus was strapped to while he was whipped.
  • The five petals and five sepals represented the 10 faithful apostles (omitting Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and Peter who denied him when he was arrested).
  • The three pistils became the nails used to secure him to the cross.
  • The lowers five anthers represented the five wounds delivered to Jesus.
  • The purple filaments or corona symbolized the crown of thorns placed on his head. 
  • The reddish spots present on some species could appear to be the blood that was spilled.
  • And finally, the round fruit represented the world that Christ was said to have died to save.

     So that is the legend that supposedly led to the naming of this beautiful plant. In fairness, the other version has the same elements but supposedly originates with an Augustine friar from Mexico. Regardless of what it was said to symbolize or not, the name stuck in various fashions throughout the world. There are hundreds of species, but we only have two passionflowers locally, with the Purple Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) being shown above. The much smaller and less showy Yellow Passionflower (Passiflora lutea) is shown below. It's small fruit (berry) is not very edible.

The Yellow Passionflower is a much smaller vine, with a less showy flower and inedible fruit that turn purple when ripe. 

     There are numerous other stories and legends surrounding our native plants. From time to time I like to tell a few for people to learn about...

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