These intriguing blooms are profusely snaking, clinging and stretching all over our south-facing brick wall. It is not surprising to discover that their mysterious complexity has been made use of by more than one religion.
The Spanish Catholic missionaries who went to South America in the 15th century treated the passion flower as a teaching aid in retelling the story of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The ring of filaments symbolises the crown of thorns, the three stigmas the three nails on the cross, the five anthers the five holy wounds, and the ten sepals and petals stand for the ten of the twelve apostles who did not waver – Judas betrayed Jesus, and Peter denied knowing him. The flagellation of Jesus during the passion is represented by the plant’s whip-like tendrils and the spots on the underside of the leaves recall the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas for his act of betrayal. The flowers bloom brightly but last for only a day, as did the passion and death of Jesus, before retracting into a tightly-wrapped bundle reminiscent of a burial shroud.