Passiflora incarnata, the southeastern native wild passionflower vine, is a plant with many uses. It has gorgeous flowers, edible fruit (when you can beat the critters to them), and is a host plant for the larvae of the bright orange Gulf Frittilary butterfly. Traditionally in herbal medicine it has been used as a mild sedative and anti-anxiety treatment and to treat insomnia and seizures. There is some modern medical research to prove it has these effects.
Unfortunately, that’s not what I planted. I had space for a vine in an area with less than ideal conditions, so a tough native vine fit the bill, particularly since I had been reluctantly mowing over this species in the adjacent field. When it came time for planting, no natives were left in that field to transplant, so I first asked around for sprouts and finally I visited the local nurseries.
- First mistake: I believed the identification of the nursery even though I thought the leaves looked a little funny.
- Second mistake: I bought two of them.
- Third mistake: I underestimated the potential vigor and spreading capability of this plant.
I had Passiflora caerulea, a South American version which is quite lovely as an ornamental but not edible, and since I could find not any information of the natives of South America using the plant medicinally in the same way, I was unsure of its medical applications. There were only a few fruit, and nothing ate them. However, the caterpillars didn’t seem to mind the switch.
By the time I realized my mistakes, I was granted a partial reprieve: I discovered the native plant had found it’s way into the woodland edge and was climbing up the trees. I did not manage to harvest a single ripe fruit before the wild critters got them.
So yesterday I started the process of removing the Passiflora caerulea. I say started, but I suspect every missed root, of which there are no doubt many, will be sending up a sprout for the next several years. Some mistakes come back to remind you again and again. And I need to put on my To Do list to repair that part of the fence: the vines were VERY vigorous.
Now I just need to decide if I plant something else there right away, or give myself a year to kill as much of the old vine as I can.
(By Nicole Castle)