Yellow Passion Flower

Photo of yellow passionflower flowers.
Scientific Name
Passiflora lutea
Passifloraceae (passion flowers)

A herbaceous perennial vine, climbing by tendrils. Flowers 1–3, arising from leaf axils, about 1 inch across, each on a stalk to 1½ inches long; yellowish-green flowers with numerous fringed floral parts. Blooms May–August. Leaves alternate, shallowly three-lobed, to 4½ inches long and 6 inches wide, on stalks up to 2½ inches long. Fruits egg-shaped or nearly spherical berries containing seeds surrounded by pulpy material, green becoming dark purple at maturity, about ½ inch long.

Similar species: Missouri’s other passion flower is Maypops (P. incarnata), which has larger, purple and white flowers, fruits to 2½ inches long, and deeply 3-lobed leaves.

Other Common Names
Yellow Passionflower

Stem length: 2–13 feet or longer.

Where To Find
image of Yellow Passion Flower Distribution Map

Scattered, mostly south of the Missouri River.

Occurs in bottomland forests, rich upland forests, bases and ledges of bluffs, margins of glades, and banks of streams and rivers; also occasionally in old fields, fencerows, and roadsides. Look for it in low alluvial ground and open, rocky woodlands.

Globally, there are about 500–600 species in the passion flower family (Passifloraceae). Most grow in tropical and warm-temperate regions across the world. Like orchids, their unusual, even bizarre flowers correspond with fascinating interactions with insect pollinators. Based on their tendrils and fruit structure, passion flowers were long thought to be related to the cucumber family. Genetic evidence is showing they are more closely related to violets and willows.

The unusual floral structures of this family inspired the name passion flower, due to an imaginative correspondence of its parts to the Christ crucifixion story. Many passion flowers are grown as ornamentals, and some are grown commercially for the fruit.

Wasps commonly visit the flowers of this species and may be important pollinators. Farther south, people plant passion flowers in their gardens because they are larval food plants for the butterflies Gulf fritillary, Julia, and zebra longwing. The last is the state butterfly of Florida.

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!