Passiflora 'Amethyst' flowers

Passiflora ‘Amethyst’ © 2005 Dr. Horst Kretzschmar

Passiflora ‘Amethyst’

P. kermesina & P. caerulea
UK 1800’s
Min –8°C 18°F

Passiflora ‘Amethyst’ is a very old UK hybrid. The origin of this Passion flower is not at all certain but the original P. x kewensis is thought to be the same cross as this. A quite different hybrid with pink flowers & white filaments, thought to be P. racemosa x P. galbana?, is currently widely sold as P. x kewensis or P. ‘Kew Gardens’. This is a complicated tale and Dr Les King and others have done a great deal of research to try to distinguish the wood from the trees, but there are and will remain unsolved mysteries. Note that P. x kewensis ‘Epithet’ is the correct name for all P. kermesina x P. caerulea crosses e.g. P. x kewensis ‘Amethyst’ but fortunately correct nomenclature allows for the x kewensis to be left out. See a list of published articles at the foot of the page. 

P. ‘Amethyst’ was for many years the second most widely sold passion flower in UK after P. caerulea. Sadly its original form it is rarely seen these days as wholesalers produce only a limited range of Passiflora for Garden Centres and Nurseries. It is very free flowering & hardy if protected to –8° C/18° F. I have had 65 flowers a day on a mature plant & a characteristic is that a young cutting produces buds very quickly. The P. ‘Amethyst’ x P. caerulea cross has given rise to beautiful hybrids such as P. ‘Star of Clevedon’ & P. ‘Star of Bristol’ by John Vanderplank and P. ‘Star of Surbiton’ by Myles Irvine.

Gallery showing close ups of the original P. ‘Amethyst’ foliage.

There has been much confusion between P. ‘Amethyst’ & P. ‘Lavender Lady’ which is a hybrid produced in USA in 1982 by Patrick Jesse John Worley. Unfortunately P. ‘Lavender Lady’ is also a long standing synonym for P. ‘Amethyst’, although it should no longer be used. It is pretty clear that many if not all of the plants being widely sold in USA as P. ‘Lavender Lady’, for whatever historical reason, are P. ‘Amethyst’. Both others and myself have grown both side by side and they are the same plant. I have examined P. ‘Lavender Lady”s supposed sisters from the same complex cross of P. amethystina (short peduncle) and P. caeruleaP. ‘Jeannette’ and P. ‘Blue Bouquet’. P. ‘Lavender Lady”s foliage is quite similar to P. ‘Jeannette’ but very different from P. ‘Blue Bouquet’.

P. ‘Amethyst’ has long been thought to be a cross of P. kermesina and P. caerulea, however the cross could not be repeated or indeed P. kermesina used to create other hybrids as for many years it seemed to have been lost both in the wild & in cultivation. Thanks to work by Dr. Roland Fischer, Axel Frank, Dr. Reto Gamma & Mauro Peixoto, it was rediscovered in the wild in Brazil and then shared widely. I have grown it and found it to be a difficult plant.

Passiflora kermesina fruit

From his P. kermesina plant Roland kindly sent me a P. kermesina x P. caerulea fruit, above. I had good germination rates and produced some lovely plants. Dr Les King, the Passiflora Cultivar Registrar, examined them and pronounced himself satisfied that P. kermesina x P. caerulea is indeed the P. ‘Amethyst’ cross, although all the new crosses have predominantly 5 lobes. Note that Roland used a 9 lobed P. caerulea however so the lobe difference between his plants & P. ‘Amethyst’ is not significant. In any event P. ‘Amethyst’ does occasionally throw up 4-5 lobed leaves. Roland specifically asked me not to share any of these plants, both to avoid confusion with the original P. ‘Amethyst’ and as he had produced a superior tetraploid version of the cross, P. ‘New Amethyst’, which sadly for reasons unknown has never been commercially available and is most likely lost.

passion flower passiflora new amethyst

Dr Roland Fischer’s tetraploid P. ‘New Amethyst’ 2002.

The Gallery above shows P. ‘Amethyst’ on the left and P. kermesina x P. caerulea KC3 on the right, and KC13 and KC18, two other clones of the cross. I think it is clear that P. ‘Amethyst’ is indeed an example of P. kermesina x P. caerulea. A comparison:-

P. ‘Amethyst’ 9.5 cm flower diameter. Coronal filaments 4.0 cm diameter. Little pollen. Light pleasant perfume. Smaller flower but a better colour, a less vigorous generally 3 lobed plant.

P. kermesina x P. caerulea ref KC3. 11.5 cm flower diameter. Coronal filaments 5.5cm diameter. Speckled androgynophore. More pollen. Identical light pleasant perfume. A bigger flower but a poorer colour so not worth naming, and a very vigorous 5 lobed plant.

Finally, despite the excitement at the time, I would comment that apart from Roland’s tetraploid crosses of this, another being P. ‘Purple Passion’, (P.kermesina x P. ‘Constance Eliott’), we have merely repeated a cross done many years ago. Now P. kermesina is in cultivation, who knows how many P. ‘Amethyst’s have been produced. One of the best is P. ‘Beervelde’ a selection by Cor Laurens.

I doubt that the confusions will ever be fully resolved, but for those who want to know more, see the papers below by the Passiflora Cultivar Registrar (2003-2011) Dr Leslie King and his colleagues:-

A note on Passiflora x kewensis  King et al. Passiflorunde, 10(1), 2-13, 2002

The ‘Amethyst’ Group King & Frank. Passiflora. 13(1), 13-16 (2003)

What is Passiflora x kewensis? King. Passiflora 13(1), 19-20, (2003)

 Passiflora ‘Kew Gardens’ King et al. Passiflorunde 15(1), 2-4, (2007)