flowers, herbs, and berries

TN Official Wildflower: The Passionflower

TN Official Wildflower: The Passionflower

The Purple Passionflower

Have you ever wondered what the official state wildflower is for Tennessee? If you grew up in Tennessee maybe you learned about it in school. Perhaps you even tasted it. Yup, you heard me right, the state wildflower, Passionflower, bears an edible fruit. This wonderfully unique wildflower is growing among the wild blackberries at Little Falls Farm.

bee pollinate wildflower
Bees enjoy the Passionflower

Passionflower, passiflora incarnata, is sometimes referred to as maypop, molly-pop, Holy-Trinity Flower, wild apricot vine, and the ocoee. The Ocoee is a Cherokee word that means “wild apricot.” It grows in the wild as a perennial vine. The Ocoee River was given its name for the passionflowers growing along the riverbanks.

Passionflower History Notes

The passionflower can be read about in a variety of early writings in South America and in the New World. Around the world everyone from Spaniards to Native Americans to Colonists were enamored with its beauty and the flavor of its fruit, as well as its medicinal uses. Some of its historical names include granadilla, maracock, and paseo de flora.

Pedro Cieza de León, a Spanish Conquistador, journaled about his travels in Peru. In “The Travels of Pedro Cieza de León(1532-50),” he describes the “granadilla” in this way,

“Through the centre of this valley, which is called Lile, a river slows, and is fed by many streams coming from the mountains. The banks of this river are well covered with fruit trees, amongst which there is one which is very delicious and fragrant called granadilla.”

According to,

“The Passion Flower received its name from the early Christian missionaries to South America, who saw in the various parts of the curiously constructed flower symbols of the Crucifixion — the three crosses, the crown of thorns, nails and cords.”

Nicolás Monardes (1493-1598), a Spanish physician and botanist from Seville, wrote about the passionflower in his herbal remedies. He is believed to be one of the first to suggest that the flower structure is a representation of the crucifixion of Christ, thereby becoming a useful visual tool for instructing converts in the New World.

In the New World in 1612 Captain John Smith wrote about the agricultural practices of the Natives in Virginia. He made these comments about the passionflower,

“They plant also Maracocks a wild fruit like a lemmon, which also increase infinitely: they begin to ripe in September and continue till the end of October.”


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