Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Too Shy

One of our favorite vines in My Florida Backyard is the Passion Vine. It's easy to grow (almost too easy), serves as a larval host plant for several butterflies, and has amazing flowers. Till now, we've grown the native Passiflora incarnata with its stunning purple flowers. We also started some P. incarnata "Alba" from seed this year, which has amazing white flowers, but it has yet to put on any blooms - we're being patient.

We were also fortunate this year to get our hands on some Passiflora suberosa, another native Passion Vine. More commonly known as Corky Stem Passion Vine, it isn't showy and vibrant like its cousins. Instead, the flowers are tiny and delicate, easily missed but so worth the discovery.

Corky Stem Passion Vine tends to grow best in the shade or partial shade. Because of this, it's often preferred by Zebra Longwing butterflies when they lay their eggs. Early fall is generally when Zebra Longwings start to appear in My Florida Backyard, and we hope to see some soon laying eggs on this simple little vine. (Gulf Fritillaries and Julias will also use this vine as a host plant.)

We got our Corky Stem as a cutting from a friend, as you almost never see them in nurseries. It was easy to grow from a cutting - we placed it in water until roots showed, then kept it in most soil while it began to grow. When it seemed strong and healthy, we transplanted it outside. You can also grow this vine from the seeds of the berries - see this site for more info.

All the native Florida Passion Vines have a place in a wildlife garden, although its true that they can become pretty aggressive if allowed to. Generally, however, once they start to grow and Gulf Fritillary butterflies discover them, nature will easily keep the balance. Beware the non-native Passion Vines, though... the red-flowered Passiflora coccinea is from South America and the leaves are toxic to our native caterpillars, even though the butterflies will sometimes lay eggs on them. Stick to the natives, and you'll draw butterflies by the dozen for your reward!


  1. Hi, FloridaGirl! I'm a huge fan of passionvines! You bring up a GREAT point, though...I never knew the nonnative forms could be toxic to the native butterflies/larvae. I got nervous at first, because I have a Lady Maragaret...pretty red bloom. However, I remember that I had fresh fritillary butterflies, so mine must be ok.

  2. Great post! That corkystem is really neat. Thanks for sharing that the nonnative vines can be toxic. I didn't know that.

  3. In addition to being toxic, P. coccinea is extremely aggressive. It will form such a dense cover over trees that it can kill them. The flowers are nice to look at but the plant is very undesirable! Native Passifloras are definitely the way to go!

  4. I just discovered this corky stem in my garden. I've been rescuing a house in Daytona Beach for the last three years, and working in the garden I would come across this little sprout and the corky stem that I thought was somebody's leftover ivy house plant. Well it wouldn't go away, volunteering all over the place, but I never saw flowers or fruit until today. First I saw the tiny round 'pops' and then I saw a bud, and then, the tiniest passion flower ever! So cute!! Now I'm going to encourage it a little more - I'm excited to find it will host my beloved zebras and gulf fritillaries as other passion vines I have had. PS it is thriving near the ocean, in a semi-shady area, in case anyone is wondering about salt tolerance.