Passiflora parritae

Tolima, Colombia 1882
Min 6°C 43°F – Max 23°C 73°F

Passiflora parritae – with fabulous orange flowers that are hummingbird pollinated, this is one of the worlds rarest and most spectacular climbing vines.Many thanks to Ron Boender, Greg Cunningham, David O. Gray, Eric Hunt, Gary Uhouse & Elizabeth Waterman for their kindness in letting me use their photos of Passiflora parritae both at Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco, growing up Clethra suaveolens, a tree from Mexico, and in a private garden. One of the rarest passion flowers. Not in my collection. A native of Colombia in the Department of Tolima. Type originally collected by Mr Parra in 1880 and named Tacsonia parritae in 1882. It is a Tacsonia with the typical long floral tube associated with hummingbird pollination. In fact it is so long that it is thought only one species of hummingbird can pollinate it.

This Passiflora parritae plant was grown from seed collected above 2000 metres in the Department of Caldas, Municipio of Pensilvania, by students of the late Professor Linda Escobar. It was the only clone of this species in captivity & it was thought to be extinct in the wild as the mother plant has been cut down. In 2002 however Giselher Behnken brought more clones into cultivation that he had found in Colombia. It is hoped that they will be shared worldwide to wherever this beautiful species will thrive.

The leaves are similar to P. antioquiensis & it is equally fussy re its growing conditions. It likes high humidity & full sun but too much heat & it will die. It will tolerate a light frost. It produces pollen & flowers freely in late summer & autumn. Previous attempts at tissue culture have failed, but Strybing has managed to take cuttings. It is hoped that its reluctance to self pollinate may be overcome in the laboratory. In 2008 Carlos Rendon created a fantastic hybrid Passiflora ‘Mission Dolores’ (Passiflora parritae x Passiflora antioquiensis) named after a local Mission in San Francisco. It has a large reddish/pink flower on very long peduncles, It is less temperamental than either parent and more vigorous.

Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera)

Image 2006 © David Cook flickr

It is likely that in the wild P. parritae‘s pollinator is an extraordinary hummingbird, Ensifera ensifera. Sadly it is thought that global warming has caused a shift in the population of E. ensifera to higher altitudes leaving the massive parritae flowers unpollinated in an evolutionary dead end. It is generally accepted as a fatal error for both plant & pollinator to become exclusively dependent on each other, in this case it appears to be P. parritae that has made the error & E. ensifera which can feed at many flowers is not at risk. Nevertheless there are still some P. parritae growing in the wild.