Maypops (Passiflora incarnata)

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Wednesday, July, 02 2014 07:45:46 pm   , 609 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 43718 views

One of the most beautiful, intricate, and complex flowers seen this time of year throughout the southern area of the United States is that of the Maypop (or Purple Passionflower) plant, Passiflora incarnata, one of the more than 500 species of the genus Passiflora. The Maypop is a fast-growing perennial herbaceous climbing vine with clinging tendrils, large, trilobed (trident-shaped) leaves, and spectacularly-colored blooms, some of which give rise to an edible, egg-shaped, berry-like fruit, which contains an abundance of gelatinously covered seeds.

One of nine species of Passiflora native to the continental United States, the Maypop ranges from Texas in the south and west, northward to Kansas, thence east to Pennsylvania, south to Florida, and west to Texas, inclusive of all states within that perimeter. The Maypop is a subtropical representative of its particular plant family and thus can withstand cold temperatures down to -20C (-4F) before the roots die.

The most notable feature of these hardy perennial plants is their amazingly complex and beautiful flowers, called "passion flowers" by 16th-century Spanish missionaries, thus the name, Passifloraceae, for the family, and Passiflora, for the genus. The different components of the fascinating flowers were seen by the missionaries as symbolic of the crucifixion of Jesus: the ten sepals and petals represented ten apostles (excluding Judas and Peter, one who betrayed and one who denied), the colorful filaments were the crown of thorns, the three stigmas represented the three nails which fastened the Christ to the cross, and the five anthers were the five wounds he received during the crucifixion.

The five sepals and five petals open wide and flat underneath rings of variegated filaments that surround a central stalk which bears the ovary and stamens. The five sepals are green on the underside of the bloom but white on their top sides, thus giving the appearance of additional petals. The actual petals range from a light blue to white.

The flowers are rather too large and complex for pollination by honey bees, but larger bees such as carpenter bees and bumble bees have an easier time of it and are particularly attracted to the spectacular blooms of the Maypop.

Why are they called "Maypop"? Some online sources say the name combines the month the flowers first bloom (though here in central-coastal Texas, they are mostly first seen in June) and the sound one hears when one steps on the rind-enclosed fruits, which are actually a berry, being composed of numerous seeds (white while the rind is still green; black once the rind turns a yellowish-brown and begins to shrivel before ultimately drying out completely, whereupon it releases the seeds).

The fruit (including the rind and seeds) is edible and the pulp-covered seeds make a tasty juicy snack on hot summer days. The green rinds, when used for food are best cooked, since too many eaten raw can burn the mouth. (Young seeds of the immature fruits can be eaten. When the fruits ripen, the seeds, of course, get tougher, so be careful how you dispose of them or you'll have a yard filled with Maypop plants. By the way, if you have Maypop planted along a fence, you can control their spread by mowing them where you do not want them growing, or by simply pulling and snapping off the unwanted plants.) The fruits can be made into jelly, though I have not tried making any. The vines attract and feed a variety of insects, particularly the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae), the Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia), the Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia), and the Julia Butterfly (Dryas iulia).

USDA map showing the native range of Maypops (Passiflora incarnata)

Wild Irises of Texas

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Monday, April, 14 2014 02:23:03 am   , 320 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 32073 views

To me some of the most spectacular wildflowers are irises, which are now blooming throughout this coastal area of Texas along the banks of rivers, streams, and lakes, especially small shallow bodies of water commonly called flag ponds.

According to the website The Biota of North America Program, Texas has five native species of wild iris (often called "flags") growing wild in many parts of the state. The native North American species growing wild in Texas are the following:

  • Iris brevicaulis (also known as the Zigzag Iris)
  • Iris fulva (commonly called the Copper Iris or Red Flag)
  • Iris giganticaerulea (known as the Giant Blue Iris or Giant Blue Flag)
  • Iris virginica (also called the Great Blue Flag or Southern Blue Flag)
  • Iris x flexicaulis (sometimes called Iris hexagona var. flexicaulis or Iris flexicaulis, an apparently naturally-occurring cross of brevicaulis and giganticaerulea)

Barbara Medford, writing for the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center lists only four Texas natives: "Iris brevicaulis (zigzag iris), Iris fulva (copper iris), Iris hexagona (Dixie iris), and Iris virginica (Virginia iris)." Problematic for me is that the bonap site page on irises shows the Dixie iris as native to Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Medford does not list the Giant Blue Iris as a Texas native. Also, if Iris x flexicaulis is not related to the Dixie Iris, should they both be called Iris hexagona? (Confusing! And why I am showing pictures here of the irises that have been growing on the slough I live on, with no attempt made to identify them by scientific or even common names.)

Texas also has an Old World species, Iris pseudacorus (referred to as the yellow flag, yellow iris, or water flag), growing wild, as do many other states. These exotics are growing also on the slough. They were brought here from a neighboring slough where they were growing wild.

Trick or Treat!

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Wednesday, October, 23 2013 11:30:48 pm   , 323 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 10634 views

Why didn't the skeleton go to the party?
He didn't have any BODY to go with!

Who won the skeleton beauty contest?
No body!

Why didn't the skeleton cross the road?
He didn't have the guts.

What do you call a skeleton who won't work?
Lazy bones!

Why did they have to put a fence around the graveyard?
Everyone was just dying to get in.

What do you call a fat Jack-O-Lantern?
A plumpkin!

How do you repair a cracked pumpkin?
With a pumpkin patch!

Little Monster: Ooh, I hate my teacher's guts!
Momma Monster: Well, then, darlin', just eat around them!

Little Monster: Should I eat my fries with my fingers?
Momma Monster: No, dear, you should eat them separately!

Who is usually the best dancer at a Halloween party?
The Boogie Man!

What is Dracula's favorite fruit?
Necktarines!

What is the tallest building in Transylvania?
The Vampire State Building!

How do you unlock a haunted house?
With a skeleton key!

What did the first casket say to the second casket?
Is that you coffin?

How do you make a skeleton laugh?
You tickle its funny bone!

What does a skeleton say before eating?
Bone appetit!

What do you call a friendly and handsome monster?
A total failure!

Where can you find a one-handed monster?
In a second hand store!

What is a monster's favorite song?
"Ghouls just want to have fun"!

What do witches put on their hair?
Scare spray!

What's the problem with twin witches?
You can never tell which witch is which!

Why do witches fly on brooms?
Vacuum cleaner cords aren't long enough!

What was the witch's favorite subject in school?
SPELLing!

How does a ghost eat a hot dog?
By goblin' it!

What do ghosts serve for dessert?
I-Scream!

What did one cool ghost say to the other?
"Get a life, dude!"

Where do baby ghosts go while their parents are at work?
Day scare!

What streets do ghosts most like to live on?
Dead ends!

What kind of mistakes do spooks make?
Boo boos.

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
Frostbite.

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