[nafex] Maypops (Passiflora incarnata)

Ray Givan raygivan at earthlink.net
Fri Sep 15 19:09:01 EDT 2000

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I tried my hand at maypops about ten years ago. Never got any fruit and the
plants seemed to disappear and not comeback in the spring. I'd see one or
two and that was it. (I'd planted some twenty plants for starters.) 

This year, they made a big comeback. Possums beat me to the fruit, but they
are flowering and fruiting.

I am mildly interested in an interest group. I think the species has good


At 05:55 PM 9/14/00 -0500, you wrote:
>I am very interested in growing and breeding the maypop for its edible fruit
>(Passiflora incarnata).  The maypop is a perennial vine native to the
>southeastern U.S. and is related to the more tropical passionfruit.  It bears a
>truly delicious fruit.  
>I have spoken to Lon Rombaugh about starting a NAFEX interest group for the
>maypop.  I am writing this email to learn whether others of you are interested
>in the maypop and to hear what your experiences have been.  Below I have
>included a brief description of maypops gleaned from my own experience, my
>reading, and my conversations with other growers.  I hope to hear from some of
>History and current interest
>Archaeological evidence and early historical accounts indicate that American
>Indians frequently consumed wild and / or cultivated maypop fruits. 
>European-Americans have also gathered maypops from the wild and occasionally
>cultivated the plants.  Currently, a number of individuals are growing and
>breeding maypops, and the fruits are sometimes marketed locally in the
>southeastern U.S.  In addition to being a fruit crop, maypops are also grown
>for their large, sweet-scented, ornamental flowers.  The plants also contain
>chemicals with a sedative, tranquilizing effect, and there is a small
>commercial industry growing plants for medicinal use.
>The maypop's wild range is bordered by eastern Texas in the southwest, Kansas
>in the northwest, Delaware in the northeast, and central Florida in the
>southeast.  In cultivation, it sometimes overwinters in much colder areas,
>including Michigan and New York State.  In some northern areas, however, plants
>may overwinter but fail to ripen fruit because of the short, cool growing
>Maypops are easily propagated by root or rhizome division and stem cuttings. 
>Seeds retain viability over winter in a refrigerator.  Seed germination can be
>slow and uneven, but is hastened greatly by high heat.
>Growth, flowering, and fruiting
>Maypop plants are herbaceous and only the belowground parts overwinter. 
>Seedlings and overwintering plants emerge when the soil is thoroughly warmed in
>the spring.  Vines are extremely vigorous and sometimes highly branched 
>trellising them can be a challenge.  The plants spread great distances
>belowground as well, sending up new shoots yards away from the original plant. 
>Plants will flower and fruit in their first year's growth from seed as well as
>in subsequent years.  The vines are indeterminate and flowers are produced at
>many nodes on a stem, and the flowering season can therefore last several
>months.  Flowers are attractive to many insects, but are usually best
>pollinated by carpenter bees or large bumble bees.  Plants are usually
>(always?) self-incompatible.  
>Fruits mature about 8 weeks after the flowers open.  The fruits fall off the
>plant when ripe and are usually harvested off the ground.  Ripe fruits are
>oblong or round, several inches long, green or yellow, and often very
>aromatic.  The rind is thin, and the interior of the fruit consists of many
>large seeds each surrounded by a juicy aril.  The rind and seeds are not very
>edible.  The juice in the arils, however, is very aromatic, sweet or slightly
>tart, and delicious.  It can be drunk fresh, or made into jelly, wine, or
>various other desserts.  
>Many insects and viruses attack maypops, but generally their importance as crop
>pests is unknown.  Blister beetles and fritillary butterfly larvae are
>sometimes problems in cultivated plantings.
>Because of their rapid growth and underground spreading, maypops can be
>invasive.  They are serious agricultural weeds in peanut fields of the
>southeastern U.S.
>Breeding and hybridization
>Maypops are well suited for breeding work, because they have a short life cycle
>and their large flowers are easily manipulated for controlled pollinations.  In
>addition, their large geographic range suggests that there is much genetic
>variation that can be used in breeding.  However, very little maypop breeding
>has been done.  Some attempts have been made to hybridize maypops with their
>close relative Passiflora edulis, the tropical and sub-tropical passionfruit. 
>The passionfruit is an important commercial fruit, and breeders have hoped to
>combine its desirable commercial traits with the greater cold-hardiness of the
>maypop.  Hybrids are frequently sterile, although the sterility can be partly
>overcome by creating polyploid hybrids.  Several ornamental tetraploid hybrid
>cultivars have been named, but to my knowledge none are widely grown for their
>Future work
>There is a great deal of work to be done on growing, breeding, and utilizing
>maypops.  I am currently collecting maypop germplasm to evaluate genetic
>variation in fruit traits and eventually to select or breed varieties with
>desirable fruit.  Mr. Patrick Worley of California is engaged in a similar
>project.  A number of other individuals are growing and breeding maypops.  

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