Back in the January 2007 Land for Wildlife newsletter, Gold Coast Land for Wildlife Officer Darryl Larsen wrote an article outlining the differences between the various passion vine species of the region. I’d like to extend upon that article, and take a more detailed look at the nine species of passion vine that occur in the South-east Queensland (SEQ) region. The nine species are comprised of three native species, four commonly encountered weed species and two rarely encountered weed species. Once you get your eye in and can recognize the differences, you’ll be a passionate passion vine enthusiast.

Firstly some characteristics of passion vines. They’re all in the genus Passiflora, which is a worldwide genus, with hundreds of species and cultivars. The much enjoyed Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis) is the best known passion vine.

All Passiflora species have alternate leaves. Opposite each leaf is usually a long curly wire-like tendril, which is the appendage these vines use to grab hold of nearby plants to help them climb. In addition, all the local Passiflora species have fruit with a soft pulpy interior, but they vary in size, shape and colour between the species. The last feature that can help you identify Passiflora species is their tiny glands which occur near the base of each leaf or on the leaf stalk (petiole). These glands only become evident after the seedling stage.

A couple of years ago, researchers from the USA came to Australia to study the natural pollinators of Passiflora, as pollination and fruit set is difficult in the USA. Over a few weeks they set up motion sensor cameras near wild native Passiflora species (Passiflora aurantia var. aurantia, and P. herbertiana here in SEQ) and monitored the action. It was thought that moths or butterflies might be the most common flower visitors, but it was birds! Most commonly honeyeaters, including Noisy Miners. As we know, bird-pollinated native flowers are in abundance here in Australia, much higher in proportion than in most other continents, and from these studies it appears that passion vines are no different.

As well as being a favourite with honeyeaters, most of the local passion vines (including the weed species except P. edulis and P. vitifolia) are hosts for larvae of the Glasswing (Acraea andromacha) butterfly that munch away happily on the leaves.

All three native species are relatively short lived, usually for about a year. They are all thin-stemmed and never take over, preferring to climb up and amongst foliage of other plants. They might have a leafy coverage in a small area, but they never go rampant.

The three native and six weed species of passion vine found in SEQ are pro led below continuing through.

Article and all photographs by Glenn Leiper, co-author, Mangroves to Mountains: A Field Guide to the Native Plants of South-east Queensland

Red Passion Vine (Passiflora aurantia var. aurantia) Native

Red Passion Vine

Red Passion Vine Tendrils

LocationEucalypt forests, some rainforest edges, along gullies and creeks.
FlowersLarge to 7 cm. Open whitish, then after a few days they turn pale pink, then red before closing. Ovary totally hairless.
LeavesUsually 5 cm, up to 8 cm. Often dull bluish-green, not shiny, and always 3-lobed with each lobe rounded at the tip. Leaf underside is whitish-green. Juvenile leaves are more ‘winged’ than adult leaves.
Leaf GlandsTwo obvious small glands at base of leaf on either side of leaf stalk.
Leaf Stalk1-4 cm long.
BranchletsHairless
FruitTo 3.5 cm long, oblong, green, edible but not palatable.

Orange Passion Vine (Passiflora aurantia var. pubescens) Native

Orange Passion Vine

LocationOur rarest native passion vines, with few records from SEQ in recent times. Found around edges of drier rainforests, and along gullies and creeks.
FlowersLarge to 7 cm. Open pale yellow, then after a few days turn orange before closing. Ovary covered in tiny whitish silky hairs.
LeavesUp to 6 cm. Usually glossy green, and always 3-lobed with each lobe rounded at the tip. Leaf underside is a paler green, barely whitish. Juvenile leaves are more ‘winged’ than adult leaves.
Leaf GlandsNo glands near the base of the leaf, nor on the leaf stalk.
Leaf Stalk1-4 cm long.
BranchletsHairless
FruitTo 3.5 cm long, oblong, green, edible but not palatable.

Yellow Passion Vine (Passiflora herbertiana) Native

yellow-passion-vine

LocationEucalypt forests, some rainforest edges, along gullies and creeks.
FlowersLarge to 7 cm. Open white and become yellow over the next few days.
LeavesUsually 8 cm, up to 12 cm long. Underside finely hairy. Usually slightly glossy and 3-lobed with each lobe being pointed at the tip. Leaf underside is paler green, never whitish. Sometimes leaves may have 5 lobes or just one lobe. Juvenile leaves are more ‘winged’ than adult leaves.
Leaf GlandsTwo obvious small glands at base of leaf on either side of leaf stalk.
Leaf Stalk15.7 cm long.
BranchletsCovered with short fine hairs which are easier to see with a magnifying glass or hand lens.
Fruit To 5 cm long, oblong, green, spotted with pale dots, edible but not tasty.

Corky Passion Vine (Passiflora suberosa) Weed

corky-passion-vine

LocationEucalypt forests, rainforests and waterways (usually on the edges) and disturbed weedy areas. Rampant, growing over and smothering nearby plants. Suckers from underground roots. Native to South America.
FlowersSmall to 2 cm. Greenish yellow with purple centre.
LeavesUp to 10 cm. Variable in shape; unlobed, two-lobed or three-lobed. Lobes usually pointy. Slightly glossy.
Leaf GlandsTwo raised glands (often reddish) near middle of leaf stalk, or near leaf.
Leaf Stalk0.5-4 cm long.
BranchletsNew growth hairy. Older stems sparsely hairy. Older, lower stems become very corky and pale.
FruitSmall to 1.5 cm, spherical, purplish-black.

White Passionflower (Passiflora subpeltata) Weed

white-passionflower

LocationEucalypt forests, rainforests and waterways (usually on the edges) and disturbed weedy areas. Rampant, growing over and smothering nearby plants. Suckers from underground roots. Native to Brazil.
FlowersLarge to 5 cm. White tinged with green.
LeavesUp to 10 cm. Dull, 3-lobed, with rounded tips. Underside paler green almost whitish. At the base of each leaf stalk are two leafy stipules (like small leaves).
Leaf Glands1 to 5 scattered along the leaf stalk.
Leaf Stalk2-6 cm long.
BranchletsHairless
FruitTo 4 cm, oblong, green, not edible.

Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis) Weed

passionfruit

LocationAll environments, including eucalypt forests, roadsides with weeds, rainforests, creeks and gullies. Native to America.
FlowersLarge to 6 cm. Startling white and purple; very ornate.
LeavesUp to 15 cm. Glossy 3-lobed with a serrated edge. Underside paler. Sometimes leaves have only one or two lobes, but this is usually only a random leaf or two on a plant, or a seedling.
Leaf GlandsTwo raised glands on either side of the leaf stalk near the leaf.
Leaf Stalk2-4 cm long.
BranchletsHairless
FruitTo 5 cm, oblong, green usually turning purplish or yellowish. Edible and tasty!

Stinking Passion Vine (Passiflora foetida) Weed

stinky-passion-vine

LocationEucalypt forests, waterways, roadsides, coastal sand dunes and headlands, and disturbed weedy areas. Native to South America.
FlowersLarge to 5 cm. White with sometimes a pink centre.
LeavesUp to 7 cm. 3-lobed, lobes pointy, both surfaces of the leaf hairy, with an unpleasant smell. At the base of the leaf are two small fine feathery stipules.
Leaf GlandsNone
Leaf Stalk1-6 cm long, hairy.
BranchletsHairy
FruitSlightly oblong or spherical, thin skinned, yellow to orange, surrounded by sticky feather-like bracts. Very sweet to eat...a real treat!

The Crimson Flowers of P.vitifolia

crimson-flowers

Crimson Passionflower (Passiflora vitifolia)Blue Passionflower (Passiflora caerulea)
Very uncommon in the wild, often found in bushland next to houses from where it has escaped. Native to the Americas.Rarely seen in the wild and usually in bushland near houses. Will sucker from underground roots. Native to Brazil.
Flowers: Bright red, perfumed flowers with a white centre.Flowers: White and blue to 8 cm.
Leaves: 3-lobed leaves up to 15 cm with serrated edges. Hairy underside. Small saucer-shaped glands at leaf stalk base.Leaves: 5 to 7-lobed leaves up to 12 cm. Paired leafy stipules (similar to P. subpeltata). Underside pale blue-grey. 2-4 stalked glands on leaf stalk.
Fruit: Oblong, hairy, to 5 cm, sour.Fruit: 6 cm, spherical, yellow or orange.

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2 responses on “Passion Vines of SEQ

  1. Wow! as a budding bush regenerator half way through my first yeat at TAFE, stumbling upon this article while seeking a reference to my recent introduction to native passiflora by my reluctant long suffering mentor Ian Parer, this short presentation puts it very concisley.

    I’d had trouble absorbing the names for subpeltata and suberosa, but knowing the less pestiforous edulis from a life long association since childhood

    this article bought all the species in to focus. Long Live Natives! Death to the Invaders!!

  2. Thanks for the article. I am new to SEQ (from WA) and want to know everything about the different plants and animals. I saw a little white passionflower when out walking and wondered if it might be native. It turns out that it is a weed, but it was easy to find out because this article was first up on Google. Fantastic, exactly what I was after. Thank you.

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