Passiflora caerulea (blue passionflower)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Passiflora caerulea L.
Preferred Common Name
- blue passionflower
Other Scientific Names
- Passiflora caerulea var. angustifolia G.Don
- Passiflora caerulea var. glauca Mast.
- Passiflora caerulea var. glaucophylla Loudon
- Passiflora caerulea var. imbricata Mast.
- Passiflora caerulea var. regnellii Mast.
- Passiflora coerulea DAISIE, 2014
International Common Names
- English: blue passionfruit; bluecrown passionflower; Brazilian passionflower; palikea
- Spanish: caña comun; flor de la pasión; flor de la passió; pasiflora; pasionaria; passionera
- French: fleur de la passion; Passiflore bleu
Local Common Names
- English: blue passionfruit; Brazilian passionflower
- French: fleur de la passion; Passiflore bleu
- Spanish: caña comun; flor de la pasión; flor de la passió; pasiflora; pasionaria; passionera
- Brazil: maracujá-azul; maracujá-de-cobra
- Denmark: blaa passionsblomst
- Germany: blaue Passionsblume
- Greece: rologaki; roloi
- Italy: fiore della passione; passiflora; passiflora azzurra
- Netherlands: blauwe passiebloem
- Portugal: flor-da-paixão
- South Africa: siergrenadella (Afrikaans)
- Sweden: bla passionsblomma
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
P. caerulea is a perennial vine native to South America (southern Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), which has been deliberately introduced as an attractive flowering plant to many parts of the world. It has become established as an invasive species in New Zealand, Hawaii, offshore Chilean islands and possibly other Pacific islands. The species is considered valuable as an attractive ornamental vine, is reputed to have herbal activity as a sedative and anticonvulsant, and is often used as a relatively disease-resistant rootstock for the edible passionfruit (P. edulis). However, where it has escaped and become invasive, it can smother native species and suppress the establishment of native seedlings.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Violales
- Family: Passifloraceae
- Genus: Passiflora
- Species: Passiflora caerulea
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The genus Passiflora comprises about 450 species, mostly native to tropical and temperate America (Mabberley, 2002). Almost all species are climbing vines with attractive flowers, thought by South American Catholic priests to represent the passion of Christ, hence the common name. Several species also produce edible fruit (passionfruit).
DescriptionTop of page
Slightly modified from Webb et al. (1988):
Glabrous vine. Shoots angular. Leaves 5-lobed almost to base, membranous; petioles 1-3 cm long, with 1-3 stalked glands usually near middle of petiole; stipules about 2 cm broad, subreniform, undulate, sometimes dentate; lamina lobes subequal; middle lobe 3.5-6.5-(8.5) × 0.5-3 cm, elliptic-obovate or narrow-elliptic, sometimes almost linear on vegetative shoots, membranous and dull above, entire or crenulate, mucronate. Flowers hermaphrodite, solitary. Pedicels 3.5-6.5 cm long. Bracts 2-2.8 cm long, broad-ovate, entire, cordate, imbricate. Hypanthium inconspicuous. Sepals and petals 3-4.5 cm long, oblong, white inside; sepals greenish outside and with short dorsal horn towards apex; corona threads about 2 cm long, with base purple, middle white, and apex violet. Stamens greenish; anthers about 10 mm long, equal or slightly longer than the filaments. Ovary glabrous. Fruit about 3-5 cm in diameter, subglobose, yellow; pulp scanty and inedible. Seed about 4 mm long, broad-elliptic, strongly alveolate, silvery brownish.
Plant TypeTop of page
Vine / climber
DistributionTop of page
P. caerulea is native to South America. In its native Argentina, P. caerulea is the most widely distributed species of the genus Passiflora. P. caerulea has been widely distributed as a garden plant in countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. Especially in warmer countries on most continents plants have escaped, spread by birds and other animals, and have become established as problematic vines in native forests and shrublands, as well as along riverbanks and in hedgerows and waste areas (Weeds of Australia, 2012; Invasive Species South Africa, 2014; PIER, 2014; Weedbusters New Zealand, 2014).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Feb 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Kenya||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||Particularly in parts of Central And Nairobi Provinces|
|South Africa||Present||Introduced||Invasive||A problem in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal; Original citation: Invasive Species South Africa (2014)|
|China||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|-Guangxi||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|-Jiangxi||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|-Sichuan||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|-Yunnan||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|Sri Lanka||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced||Original citation: Dept. and of Agriculture, Sri Lanka (2014)|
|Portugal||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Spain||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Known as invasive and, although not threatening natural or man-made systems is suspected to do so in the near future|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-California||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Widely naturalized in southern California|
|-Hawaii||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Kaua’I and O’ahu Islands|
|Australia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-New South Wales||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (2014)|
|-Queensland||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (2014)|
|-Western Australia||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (2014)|
|New Zealand||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Geffrye Museum (2014) indicated that P. caerulea was a popular garden plant in Britain and probably Europe and elsewhere by the 19th century. In Australia, the first herbarium record was in 1913 from New South Wales (CHAH, 2014), but whether this was a garden or wild occurrence was not reported. In New Zealand it was not recorded as an escape from cultivation until 1958 (Webb et al., 1988).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Australia||1913||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Yes||No||CHAH (2014); Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (2013)||New South Wales|
|New Zealand||1958||Yes||No||Webb et al. (1988)|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
P. caerulea has been introduced to many countries as both an attractive cultivated garden plant and as the rootstock for grafted plants of cultivated passionfruit (P. edulis). The species has naturalised in several of these countries to become an invasive vine. The chances are therefore high that further naturalisation will continue to occur in more countries where P. caerulea is grown.
HabitatTop of page
In Argentina, part of its native range, P. caerulea grows in both xerophytic areas and wet forests, especially at the forest edges. It grows on modified, sandy, clayey or rocky soils. It can be found from sea level up to 1400 m above sea level (Mendiondo and Amela Garcia, 2006). Dedinagi (2001, cited in Mendiondo and Amela Garcia, 2006) wrote that, even in its native locations, P. caerulea spreads over other plants and over fences at the edges of paths and railways, in both urban and rural areas.
The species grows in very similar habitats where it has become invasive. In general P. caerulea becomes problematic in native forests and shrublands, as well as along riverbanks and in hedgerows and waste areas. In New Zealand, it is found in hedges, nurseries, exotic plantations, light wells in and margins of native forests, on waste land, in gardens and along roadsides (Weedbusters New Zealand, 2014). In Australia, Weeds of Australia (2012) reported that it can spread quickly in bushland areas, densely smothering native vegetation. In South Africa, ‘this plant invades forest margins, bush clumps, roadsides and river banks’ (Invasive Species South Africa, 2014).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Present, no further details|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
The plants affected by P. caerulea are mostly native tree and shrub species in countries where it has escaped from gardens and become invasive.
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The flowers are pollinated by large bees, at least in parts of their natural environment (Amela Garcia and Hoc, 1997, cited in Burkes Holland and Landa, 2008). The same authors wrote that the species exhibits a low degree of self-compatibility.
Bugallo et al. (2011) investigated hybridisation between several species of Passiflora and found that P. caerulea produced fertile hybrids with P. alata, P. amethystina, and P. x ‘violacea’, although there were pre-zygotic barriers in the crosses with P. alata and P. amethystine. P. caerulea was considered outstanding as male parent.
According to PFAF (2014) the flowers open in sunny weather and do not open on dull cloudy days. Individual flowers only live for about 48 hours, remaining open all night and starting to close in the morning.
Physiology and Phenology
Mendiondo and Amela Garcia (2006; 2009) explored the characters influencing germination and emergence of seeds of P. caerulea. They collected seeds from ripe fruit and treated them in several different ways before sowing them in a mixture of soil and perlite in a greenhouse. Emergence was observed for 16 months. Seedling emergence was generally low, with a pre-treatment of removing arils and soaking in water at room temperature for 24 hours giving highest emergence of 33%. Removal of the aril from seeds tended to increase seedling emergence and vigour. Ferreira et al. (2005) also found that removal of the aril improved germination in the related species P. alata. Adding gibberellin to the substrate also seemed to promote germination.
Mendiondo and Amela Garcia (2009) compared the germination of seeds with or without the aril; with or without physical (sandpaper) or acid (‘pure’ HCl for 10 minutes) scarification; and before or after storage for one month in either an air-tight container, either in a refrigerator or desiccated at room temperature. The highest level of germination (60%) came after removal of the aril, followed by one month’s storage in the air-tight container. One month’s ‘desiccated’ storage after aril removal also produced 50% germination. Mechanical scarification with sandpaper increased germination of fresh seeds and, to some extent, of desiccated stored seeds. In almost all cases chemical scarification led to no germination at all.
MacDougal (1893) explored the behaviour of the tendrils of P. caerulea and found that the tendrils responded to a very light touch, causing them to curve towards the touched object. This work was carried out long before the roles of auxins in stem and tendril curvature was understood. Jaffe and Galston (1968) described three main movements of tendrils: (1) circumnutation, an endogenous movement increasing the probability of contact with supports; (2) contact coiling, in which the stimulated tendril coils around a support, and (3) free coiling, in which the tendril develops helical coils along its axis, not necessarily as a result of stimulation. Isnard and Silk (2009) reviewed research into climbing plants, including tendrils. Most of the research has been on species other than those of species of Passiflora, but presumably the principles are similar. The contact coiling involves perception of a mechanical stimulus resulting in a complex chain of events, including fast ionic processes as well as chemical signaling to coordinate the reactions of the whole organ (Liss and Weiler, 1994; Engelberth et al., 1995, both cited in Isnard and Silk, 2009). The subsequent free coiling of the tendril draws the stem closer to the support (Macdougal, 1896; Putz et al,, 1991, cited in Isnard and Silk, 2009) and ‘provides the plant with an elastic spring-like connection to the support that enables it to resist high winds and loads’ (McMillen and Goriely, 2002, cited in Isnard and Silk, 2009).
In Argentina part of its native range, the vines effectively last for at least 4 years before the stems are attacked, presumably lethally, by insects (Mendiondo and Amela Garcia, 2006). The use of insecticides could probably prolong the effective life of vines. In countries to which it has been introduced there are probably fewer natural enemies and so it may be able to survive longer.
Population Size and Structure
The population of native plants of P. caerulea in parts of Argentina and probably other countries in which it is native is apparently threatened, partly by urbanisation but also by the demand for its herbal properties (Mendiondo and Amela Garcia, 2006).
According to PFAF (2014), P. caerulea requires well-drained soil with plenty of moisture in the growing season, and dislikes highly alkaline soils. Although frosts can kill the aerial parts of the plant, in the following spring it will regrow from the base (PFAF, 2014).
ClimateTop of page
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
‘Passionflowers are subject to a wide array of pests and diseases, but most of them have minimal impact on well grown plants. Butterfly larvae are the exception; caterpillars readily devour the foliage of healthy mature plants’ (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2014).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
Birds and the possum Trichosurus vulpecula carry seeds for moderate distances in New Zealand.
Accidental spread to new countries is unlikely as seeds are normally carried only short distances from the parent plants by birds or sometimes by mammals.
This method of spread is the most likely, both from one country to another and within a country, because the flowers are very attractive and the plants very desirable. The species is often used as a rootstock for P. edulis (Weedbusters New Zealand, 2014). In countries where sale, propagation and distribution of P. caerulea is banned, such as New Zealand, illegal distribution may continue.
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
P. caerulea is unlikely to invade productive crops so it unlikely to have much economic impact. Invasive Species South Africa (2014) reported that it is suspected of being poisonous, but whether this is to people or livestock is not clear.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
P. caerulea can spread into natural areas and smother native plants, as well as preventing the emergence and survival of new native seedlings (Weedbusters New Zealand, 2014). Very similar observations of its effects have also been noted in South Africa (Invasive Species South Africa, 2014) and in Australia (Weeds of Australia, 2014). If global warming continues as expected, the same species could easily become a problem in more countries in, for example, Europe.
Impact on Habitats
The invasion of P. caerulea into natural habitats is highly likely to disturb the survival and regeneration of native bush.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Tolerant of shade
- Highly mobile locally
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Reduced amenity values
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - smothering
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
UsesTop of page
According to Mabberley (2014), the flowers of P. x belotii (a hybrid between P. alatocaerulea, P. alata and P. caerulea) are used in scent making. P. caerulea is a valuable horticultural plant, ‘very popular and widespread in UK and the rest of Europe’. It is very valuable to garden shops and garden enthusiasts. The species does produce fruit, inedible when green, but edible when ripened and orange, although ‘they do not generally taste that great’ (Passiflora Online, 2014). P. caerulea is also commonly grown as a rootstock for other cultivated species of passionfruit because of its tolerance to cold and pathogens (Weeds of Australia, 2012). The species can be found for sale on websites in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australasia.
In South America, the most important use of P. caerulea is medicinal (Alonso, 2004, cited in Mendiondo and Amela Garcia, 2009). Mendiondo and Amela Garcia (2009) reported that several trademarks of herbal tea and dietary supplements employ this this species as a raw material (presumably in Argentina). According to Mendiondo and Amela Garcia (2006) the fresh fruit is used as an ingredient in marmalades, syrups, beverages, juices, stews or ice-creams. The same authors reported the use of its fruit by the Argentinian ethnic groups the Toba and the Maka.
In Argentina, part of its native range, the fruits of P. caerulea provide food for several species of native birds (Mendiondo and Amela Garcia, 2006).
Uses ListTop of page
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
- garden plant
- Propagation material
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
In New Zealand, the species appears on the National Pest Plant Accord and therefore cannot be sold, propagated or distributed (see section on Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures).
In South Africa, P. caerulea is named as a Category 1 plant, or declared weed: prohibited plants that will ‘no longer be tolerated, neither in rural nor urban areas, except with the written permission of the executive officer or in an approved biocontrol reserve. These plants may no longer be planted or propagated, and all trade in their seeds, cuttings or other propagative material is prohibited. They may not be transported or be allowed to disperse’ (Alien Plants in South Africa, 2014).
Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures
In South Africa P. caerulea is listed as an invasive species that must be controlled. In Australia it is considered an environmental weed in Victoria and parts of New South Wales. In Victoria it is seen as a potential threat to one or more vegetation formations and is included in in some local and regional environmental weed lists (Weeds of Australia, 2012). In New Zealand the species is listed on the National Pest Plant Accord, an agreement between Central and Regional Government and the Nursery and Garden Industry Association to prevent the sale, distribution, or propagation, of specified pest plants (National Pest Plant Accord, 2014).
Weedbusters New Zealand (2014) reported that roots (of smaller plants) can be pulled up at any time of the year. Any aerial stems should be cut off above ground level or tied up so they cannot touch the ground and resprout.
Weedbusters New Zealand (2014) suggests cutting the aerial shoots (and stopping them from falling on the ground, where they could resprout) and painting the cut stump with glyphosate, metsulfuron-methyl, triclopyr, triclopyr plus picloram, or 2,4-D plus dicamba. Where the roots cannot be pulled out, vegetation should be sprayed on the ground with the same herbicides.
One approach is to cut the stems and, when the stumps regrow, spray the emerging shoots with glyphosate or another appropriate herbicide.
ReferencesTop of page
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Witt A, Luke Q, 2017. Guide to the naturalized and invasive plants of Eastern Africa. [ed. by Witt A, Luke Q]. Wallingford, UK: CABI. vi + 601 pp. http://www.cabi.org/cabebooks/ebook/20173158959 DOI:10.1079/9781786392145.0000
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03/04/14: Original text by Ian Popay, consultant, UK, with support from Landcare Research, New Zealand
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