Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A flower by another name

Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb here, in classifying this passion flower as Passiflora incarnata; I'm reliably informed that it is indeed the passion flower, but the scientific name is entirely out of my own research - these flowers seem to come in a wide range of colours and I'm sure they do not represent just one species. Even though the limb of this flower that I'm going out on is a creeper, it will support my findings and actually turn out to be the P. incarnata.

Initially, I put its name down to a description of the way it is constructed, with delicately multicoloured tendrils above the petals, the stamens rising up in a crown over them and the overall effect of tenderness. The passion flower however, was named so because the Spaniards who first saw them in South America were reminded of the passion of Christ - the crown of thorns, the whips, the wounds - in different aspects of this flower.

For all its name, it will not fire you up; it is mainly used as a sedative and is also a key ingredient in some herbal tranquilizers. I am not sure how common it is in Chennai, for this is the only time I saw it, near the St Thomas Mount.


Hema Kumar said...

The fruit, which by the way is called passion fruit makes a delightful drink, sorbet and even ice cream!

Shantaram said...

@Hema Kumar: Right! Though I believe there is only one of the Passiflora genus which is cultivated for the fruit....