Don't try this at home folks, not even on a conference call with a professional....To
experience the above consequences of herbivory I tried chewing a P. caerulea leaf.
At first it is quite sweet, then as the cells are crushed the
taste and smell changes due to the bitterness caused by the very rapid cyanide
release..which results in you spitting it out. It left my tongue feeling a
bit odd for a while. The bitter taste is to discourage rather than kill
bigger predators, so we are unlikely to come to harm, though the plants
hope to do more severe damage to caterpillars. See Defences.
Nevertheless assume that all fresh Passiflora foliage is toxic. The foliage of many
Passiflora even when undamaged also often has a pungent bitter smell to warn you.
I would recommend only
eating ripe fruit from commercial sources like shops and
also Passion fruit. Passion fruit juice is used worldwide
in exotic drinks etc. The fruit are also widely available, usually being P.
edulis, yellow or purple fruit, or occasionally P. ligularis which has
a hard brittle shell. Unripe fruit can also contain poisonous
cyanogenic glycosides. P. adenopoda & possibly P. gibertii unripe
fruit are of particular concern. There is also a question as to whether
Rule' is also P. gibertii under
Henk Wouters advises however
that the P. gibertii
grown from seed from Mauro
Peixoto in Brazil, in Piet
Moerman's Collection, has bigger flowers, different buds, stronger leaves,
etc compared with P. 'St.
Rule'. He also thinks the one now named as
is possibly P. pallens.
Dr. John MacDougal
comments on the Passiflora list:-
'I must come down firmly against fooling
around casually with the eating the shells or rinds of passifloras. Many
are poisonous. Millions of
years of God's evolution has made the fruit to be delicious, ...inside!
Maybe when ripe the outside is OK, or if they are bred to be bland, like
cultivated P. quadrangularis, but wild species are dangerous to play
around with, especially raw. And unripe fruit walls are very very
dangerous! Cut it and smell it-you can often detect the cyanide.
You may have smelled it when you cut a fruit that still had seeds at the
"white stage." Most species of passiflora produce cyanide in all their
parts as a protection against insects and animals eating them. The young,
developing ovary and immature fruit often have the highest concentration
of all!!! (to protect the baby seeds?). But not all species have been
In 1972 two children in Costa Rica were
poisoned by eating green, immature fruit of P.
adenopoda. One kid died. Saenz, J. A. (1972) Toxic effect of
fruit of Passiflora adenopoda DC. on
humans: Phytochemical determination. Rev Biol Trop 20(1):137-140)
It is NOT just this species, but many, if not Most species that could do
this. Just as "peach leaf tea" kills kids in the USA sometimes. Even
ripe fruit has a trace, but not enough to hurt you.
***So, the general rule is: Don't Eat green , Immature, or Developing
Fruits, especially raw! When ripe, the pulp of all species is probably OK.
P. quadrangularis rind is apparently OK, but is often candied, cooked,
or blended with other things first.''