The first time I remember seeing a maypop, Mama, Daddy, and I were riding around the back roads of rural Russell County on a Sunday, probably in the late 1960s. We were in Pittsview when Mama pointed out the car window to the most beautiful bloom I had ever seen. It was in a ditch by the road. “There’s a maypop,” she exclaimed. Daddy stopped the car and let me get out to see the breathtaking passionflower, or passiflora, up close.
There was no way Mama would let me bring the vine home with me. She didn’t like aggressive plants in the yard. I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful than the frilly purple, sweet-smelling blossoms taking over. They were much prettier to me than azaleas. Like the blooms of some of my other favorite invasive plants — wisteria, kudzu, and chinaberry – the purple passionflower delighted my senses.
A complicated symbolism accompanies the passionflower and explains how it got its name. The individual features of each bloom are said to be symbolic of the crucifixion — or Passion — of Christ.
While to some the lovely vine is considered a weed, when I studied homeopathy, I learned that passiflora incarnata is used to treat anxiety and insomnia in natural medicine. An added plus is that bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love the ornate and fragrant blooms as much as I do.
Ever since that day in Pittsview, decades ago, I’ve dreamed of having passionflowers in my own yard. And now the universe has seen fit to line my driveway with volunteer maypop vines. During quarantine, I’ve transplanted some of them to the backyard fence as well where they are thriving, making my own backyard the place I most want to be.
Marian Carcache welcomes
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