Saturday, January 28, 2012

Herbert’s Passionfruit

Passiflora herbertiana
There are so many weedy introduced passionfruit species in our local bushland, that the locals (two subspecies of P. aurantia, and this one) can easily be overlooked.
However, they both have quite distinctive leaf shapes unlike the leaf shape of any introduced passionfruit, so they are easy to distinguish once you’re in the know.

If in doubt, check out the glands on the stem near the base of the leaf. Their position differs on each passionfruit species. Both our locals have two, which hug the leaf-stem quite close to the leaf (see photo).

Herbert’s passionfruit is easy to overlook because its flowers are not particularly showy - but (with the exception of the introduced passionfruit Passiflora edulis, which has the familiar black fruit and can also be found growing wild) it has the best fruit for eating. They are also our largest local native passionfruits.
As with all passionfruit species including the common garden fruit, Passiflora edulis, the unripe fruits are poisonous. However, the poisons are not so strong that harm would come from a mouthful - and the experience is unlikely to be repeated because of the unpleasantly bitter taste of the fruit. This means that they are unlikely to be a danger to children.
The fruit of Herbert’s passionfruit doesn’t change colour as it ripens. Instead, you can tell whether it is ready for eating by the way it softens. It must be quite soft and squashy for the best flavour. If picked at the right time it is delicious.

The flowerbuds seem to promise colour, with these bright salmon-coloured sepals.

However they open to greenish white, gaining no more than the faintest orange stain as they age.

The plants like to grow in the dappled shade of trees. They are drought hardy, and survive frosts and fires by dying back to their roots, growing again once the danger has passed. This ability would make them amenable to being tidied up with the secateurs once the fruiting season has finished.

Like all native passionfruits this plant plays host to glasswing butterflies (Acraea andromacha.)

Here are some glasswing caterpillars which have made themselves at home on my neighbour’s plant, and are demonstrating how very suitable this passionfruit species is, for wildlife garden planting.


Anonymous said...

That is one hell of a mean looking butterfly:) D.

Patricia Gardner said...

The poor little thing!

Sonia said...

Hi Patricia,

I am looking for a fruiting native, to grow along a fence under some trees in dappled sun. Sounds like the native passionfruit could be just the thing. Do you know where I can locate/purchase these? Do you know of any other fruiting native climbers that may also be suitable.

Thanks for your wisdom and advice.


Patricia Gardner said...

Hullo Sonia.
No I don't know of any commercial sources of the plant, and can only suggest trying out bush tucker sources on the internet. I am trying to germinate seeds of it from my neighbour's plant, but nothing's come up yet.
Another good vine with edible fruit is Melodorum leichhardtii (which I know is available from bush tucker suppliers). Fruits of Trophis scandens are also said to be edible, though in my experience the plants don't fruit much. It has male and female vines, so you'd need one of each.
These are both good-looking plants, but are somewhat large, so only plant them if you have plenty of space.
Billardiera scandens is a delicate little vine whose fruits are said to be edible. though I don't seem to have run across any which taste nice. Perhaps plants bought from a bushfoods supplier might be selected for better flavour. (Or it might just be a matter of being careful to only eat very ripe fruits.)
Hope this helps.