Passiflora suberosa L.
(Passifloraceae — the passion flower family)
common name: Corky Passion Flower
This vine is a native of tropical South America. It is perennial, climbing with extensive tendrils, and will reach up to 6 m high on supporting vegetation. The stems are commonly purplish. The lower stems are corky, and root when in contact with the ground.
The acute leaves are 3–10 cm long on a stalk anything up to 2 cm long. They are usually 3-lobed, but may be entire. If they are lobed, the central lobe is the largest. The leaf stalk is 1–2.5 cm long and has two opposed raised glands near the middle.
The fruits are globe-shaped, 1–1.5 cm in diameter, initially green, but ripening to dark purple, almost black. They contain numerous seeds each 3–4 mm long. These are wrinkled, and are spread by birds.
This vine was a garden escapee, and is now naturalized in open forest and disturbed land. It can be an aggressive weed. It is most troublesome in the sub-canopy and ground vegetation layers, where it smothers shrubs, small trees, and the ground layer. It now grows wild over most of South and Central America, the West Indies, Hawaii, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Fiji, Samoa, and two forms on the Galapagos Islands. It has not yet been declared a noxious weed state-wide in Queensland, but may be declared under Local Government law.
The leaves, stems and green fruit are poisonous.
This plant has such variable foliage that it has often been mistaken for a new species, and so there are many synonyms, too numerous to be worth listing. The Corky Passion Flower produces leaves that tend to change in waves as the plant grows older or taller. It has been suggested by lepidopterists that this might be a defence against caterpillar attack at the early stages of the plant’s development: constantly changing its leaf shape so that it is not recognizable by the predator.
Photographs © Donald Simpson taken 2009, 2010, Hawkings Point