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Passion flowers Passiflora | Pollination overview


Those that cannot self pollinate rely on a variety of pollinators. The secret of success is to attract the pollinators to flowers of your species rather than those of others, using a combination of time of opening, number of flowers, smell, movement, size, shape & colour. Each species is in competition with not just other Passiflora but every flower in the rain forest or whatever other environment it finds itself in. At the same time it is a delicate balance as its generally accepted to be a fatal error for both plant & pollinator to become exclusively dependent on each other. Passiflora parritae is thought to have this problem, having become totally dependent on the beautiful Ensifera ensifera hummingbird above.

Agraulis vanillae © 2005 Jennifer Leggitt


Most Passiflora have flowers that are attractive to one type of pollinator e.g. bats, bees, butterflies, flies, hummingbirds, moths or wasps. A few depending on the time of day and their changing shape attract multiple pollinator types. Others attract the attentions of butterflies such as Agraulis vanillae, the Gulf Fritillary, which as well as possibly pollinating the plants when drinking nectar lay eggs on them as above & use them as caterpillar food. They can totally defoliate and kill a Passion flower.

Self pollination

Some Passiflora can self pollinate without needing visitors to the flowers. One that selfs naturally in the wild (& in my kitchen over winter) with perhaps the slightest wind is the very invasive P. suberosa. The downside of this ability however, is that if it selfs too easily it is more likely to be stuck with its existing genetic material, so if conditions change it may not be able to adapt. I have discussed elsewhere, in ‘Pollen’, the range of options between self fertile & self sterile which Passiflora employ. In some the stigma will even curve down as the day progresses which increases the chances of selfing if no pollen from elsewhere has been deposited. Read more


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