There are about 500 species of Passiflora. The Passiflora plant is widespread – nine species are native to the USA, species are found in South America, Eastern and Southern Asia, New Guinea, four or more species in Australia and a single endemic species in New Zealand – it is not native to Israel but grows happily here. This one, Passiflora edulis, is a vine with exotic looking purple and white (with green) flowers that we got from a nursery and planted in our garden in Jerusalem. When first seen in South America by Spanish Christian missionaries in the 17th century it was named passion flower. These clerics saw the parts of the flower as reminiscent of the Passion of Christ which gives it a connection to Israel and Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher:
- The tendrils are reminiscent of whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
- The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles.
- The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
- The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail
- The 3 stigmas represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds.
So on your next visit or pilgrimage to the Holy Land plan to taste a local passion fruit.