passionflower, any plant of the genus Passiflora, mostly tropical American vines having pulpy fruits. Some species are grown in greenhouses for their large, unusual flowers of various colors; those seen by early Spanish settlers were interpreted as symbolic of the Crucifixion (whence the name), the 10 petals and sepals, fringed corona, five stamens, three styles, and coiling tendrils representing in order the 10 faithful apostles, crown of thorns, wounds, nails, and scourges. The most common native North American species (P. incarnata), ranging as far north as Missouri and Pennsylvania, has purple-and-white flowers and edible egg-shaped fruits called maypops. Several species of the large-fruited granadillas are cultivated commercially in the tropics for fruit, flavoring, and beverages. Passionflowers are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Violales, family Passifloraceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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