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(Passion Flower or Granadilla family)


• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: Minor traditional uses of the leaves and roots of some species in the treatment of itching, ringworm, haemorrhoids, sores, wounds and other skin affections have been recorded. •
• Adverse effects: Irritancy / vesicant activity seems to be a feature of some members of this family. The tendrils of some African Adenia species develop into thorns capable of inflicting mechanical injury. One or two species of Barteria represent a serious dermatological hazard if encountered in their natural habitat in Africa because they house aggressive stinging ants that resent disturbance. •
• Veterinary aspects: •

This is a family comprising about 725 species in 25 genera of lianes (tendril climbers) and shrubs or trees that occur naturally in tropical and warm temperate regions. The principal genera are Adenia Forssk., Basananthe Peyr., and Passiflora L., which account for 93, 37, and 430 species respectively (Mabberley 2008). Some members of the family have previously been regarded as belonging to the Flacourtiaceae.

Many Passiflora species and cultivars are widely grown as ornamentals, the blue crown passion flower (Passiflora caerulea L., syn. Granadilla caerulea Medik.) being particularly well known because of its strangely beautiful flowers (Hunt 1968/70). Other genera are virtually unknown in horticulture, except perhaps Adenia, representatives of which occasionally being found in collections of succulent plants.

Some species are grown commercially for their edible fruit. Passiflora edulis Sims provides passion fruit, purple and yellow forms of which being found in commerce. Passiflora quadrangularis L. provides the granadilla, otherwise known as maracuya or maracuja (Morton 1987).

Adenia acuminata King
Scarlet Adenia

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Adenia digitata Engl.
[syn. Modecca digitata Harvey]

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Adenia gummifera Harms var. gummifera
[syns Adenia cissampeloides Harms, Modecca cissampeloides Planch. ex Hook., Modecca gummifera Harvey, Ophiocaulon cissampeloides Masters]
Monkey Rope, Snake Climber

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Adenia macrophylla Koord. var. singaporeana de Wilde
[syns Adenia singaporeana Engl., Modecca singaporeana Masters, Passiflora singaporeana Wall. ex G.Don]
Singapore Adenia

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Adenia spinosa Burtt Davy

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Adenia venenata Forssk.
[syn. Modecca venenata Forssk. ex Greshoff]

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Barteria dewevrei De Wild. & T.Durand

Dewèvre, who discovered this species in the Bangala region on the Upper Congo, mentions finding ants in its hollow branches. These include the aggressive Tetraponera (Pachysima) aethiops Smith, F. 1877 and Crematogaster africana Mayr 1895 (Bequaert 1922). Accordingly, like Barteria fistulosa [see below], Barteria dewevrei may be regarded as a "super-nettle" when growing in its natural environment.

Barteria nigritana Hook.f. subsp. fistulosa Sleumer
[syn. Barteria fistulosa Masters]

Barteria fistulosa is a small tree that grows in the tropical rain forests of West Africa. A fully grown specimen may be occupied by 1000–4000 ants of a species that is known to occur only as an obligate arboreal ant (Tetraponera aethiops Smith, 1877, fam. Formicidae). The ants nest in the hollow branches into which they gain access through specially gnawed holes. These ants are not particularly sure-footed and frequently fall from the branches. There is thus a slow rain of these ants from the crown of the tree, and this increases somewhat if the colony is disturbed (Janzen 1972). On venturing under the tree, the intruder cannot avoid the slow rain of ants falling from the branches. Once they land on the intruder, the ants do not immediately bite or sting, but walk about until a bare patch of skin is found. They then attack by grabbing on with their mandibles and proceed to bite and sting; they are very difficult to remove. The pain from a Pachysima sting is not felt for several seconds after the stinger has been inserted. A deep throbbing pain then develops, which lasts for 1–2 days during which time the muscle is sore and stiff (Janzen 1972). A similar story was told by Kohl (1909; cited by Bequaert 1922), who noted that the ants are "extremely pugnacious and always ready for a fight as they are equipped with excellent weapons, their stings and mandibles."

Barteria nigritana is also a myrmecophyte, but less specialised than is Barteria nigritana subsp. fistulosa (Djiéto-Lordon et al. 2004).

Modecca integrifolia Lam.

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Passiflora coriacea Juss.
[syn. Monactineirma coriacea Bory]

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Passiflora cuprea L.
[syns Cieca cupraea M.Roem.]
Red Passionflower, Devil's Pumpkin, Lizard's Tail, Wild Water Lemon

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Passiflora foetida L.
Wild Maracuja, Stinking Passion Flower, Wild Water Lemon, Love-in-a-Mist

Perry & Metzger (1980) refer to the use of this plant on the Malay Peninsula as a remedy for itch, noting further that in the Philippines, the leaves are applied as a dressing to wounds. More recently, Singh et al. (2002), describing the medical ethnobotany of the tribes of the Sonaghati area of Sonbhadra district, Uttar Pradesh, India, recorded that the whole plant paste is externally applied to cure itching.

Passiflora incarnata L.
Passionflower, Maypops

According to Felter & Lloyd (1898), "an aqueous extract has been lauded as an application to recent burns and scalds, and to hemorrhoids; also to ulcerating carcinomata, painful ulcers, chancres and chancroids. A pledget of cotton saturated with passiflora and introduced into a carious tooth has promptly allayed violent toothache." The plants is better known for its use in Western traditional medicine as a herbal sedative (Stuart 1979, Wren 1988). A 77-year old male with rheumatoid arthritis developed a hypersensitivity vasculitis seemingly as a result of taking a herbal preparation manufactured from this species (Naturest Passiflora Tablets™) for 3 weeks as a remedy for insomnia (Smith et al. 1993).

Passiflora quadrangularis L.
[syns Granadilla quadrangularis Medik., Passiflora macrocarpa Masters]
Granadilla, Giant Granadilla

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Passiflora sexflora Juss.
[syn. Decaloba sexflora M.Roem.]
Duppy Pumpkin, Goat's Foot

[Information available but not yet included in database]


  • Bequaert J (1922) Ants in their diverse relations to the plant world. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 45(4): 333-583 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Djiéto-Lordon C, Dejean A, Gibernau M, Hossaert-McKey M, McKey D (2004) Symbiotic mutualism with a community of opportunistic ants: protection, competition, and ant occupancy of the myrmecophyte Barteria nigritana (Passifloraceae). Acta Oecologica 26(2): 109-116 [doi] [url]
  • Felter HW, Lloyd JU (1898) King's American Dispensatory, 18th edn; 3rd revn, I & II. Cincinnati: Ohio Valley [WorldCat] [url]
  • Hunt P (Ed.) (1968/70) The Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia of Gardening. London: Marshall Cavendish [WorldCat]
  • Janzen DH (1972) Protection of Barteria (Passifloraceae) by Pachysima ants (Pseudomyrmecinae) in a Nigerian rain forest. Ecology 53(5): 885-892 [doi] [doi-2] [url] [url-2]
  • Mabberley DJ (2008) Mabberley's Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses, 3rd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat]
  • Morton JF (1987) Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami, FL: Florida Flair Books [WorldCat] [url]
  • Perry LM, Metzger J (1980) Medicinal Plants of East and Southeast Asia: Attributed Properties and Uses. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press [WorldCat] [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Singh AK, Raghubanshi AS, Singh JS (2002) Medical ethnobotany of the tribals of Sonaghati of Sonbhadra district, Uttar Pradesh, India. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 81(1): 31-41 [doi] [url] [pmid]
  • Smith GW, Chalmers TM, Nuki G (1993) Vasculitis associated with herbal preparation containing Passiflora extract. British Journal of Rheumatology 32(1): 87-88 [doi] [url] [pmid]
  • Stuart M (1979) Reference section. In: Stuart M (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism, pp. 141-283. London: Orbis Publishing [WorldCat] [url]
  • Wren RC (1988) Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. (Rewritten by Williamson EM, Evans FJ). Saffron Walden: CW Daniel [WorldCat]
  • [ + 12 further references not yet included in database]

Richard J. Schmidt

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