I suppose, to translate this into terms humans might be able to understand, the best way to explain my existence is to say that I stretch. I am a vine so my tendrils snake out ever further, looking for fresh new branches to cling onto, so that I can grow bigger and get more sun. Over the course of a week, maybe, a creeper finds a new branch. At first it shoots into open air, precarious and unbalanced, headed for a spot that seemed to produce shade earlier. It flails about frantically, but to the human mind, slowly, as it searches for a foothold. Once it finds something to cling onto, it wraps around it, anchors itself, and reinforces the existing path, growing wider.
My growth is exactly this: pathfinding. Each of my arms hunt for a new path, and once found, grow it into a trunk to transport more nutrients back and forth. It’s sort of like your roads and highways, which grow ever bigger between two cities (don’t ask me how I know about these). All these arms lead back to my main trunk, which is now as thick as a tree, and on the other end, my roots shoot into the earth, performing the same task as my branches, but in the other direction. Finding patches of nutrition and wet soil, and then growing stronger to bring them to my other parts.
“There was not a tree, but a structure for me to grow on. . . . I have completely inhabited this space, and with the help of the humans, prospered.”
Passionflower growing on a wire.
Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda), Pokhara, Nepal.
My particular story is different that the regular passionflower, because I grew from a cutting, taken by humans, and with their assistance grew massive. There was not a tree, but a structure for me to grow on. It is a deck, with an umbrella on top (which at this point has been completely replaced with my leaves). I have completely inhabited this space, and with the help of the humans, prospered. Several times, I was attacked by funguses and diseases, by bugs. I teetered on the brink of death. But the humans always preserved me, because they like my leaves, my flowers, and my fruit. I have grown far older than any passionflower would ever do through this exchange.
My perception of humans is a presence that solves problems for me– I have the perfect habitat, always enough water, protection from parasites. I know humans as a force because their acoustics are big, and they interact with my tendrils in a way other beings do not. They cut off pathways from limb to limb, unless I grow in the places they want me. I also know they take my fruit. Many animals would like to eat my fruit. Here some do; rats, squirrels, humans, crows. The humans take almost all of it, after it falls or sometimes before. It is part of my design to reproduce. However, I have only encountered one other passionfruit, a semi-distant brethren who was born and died in a small part of my lifetime. It is strange to be the only passion vine. I do not know why my offspring never grow.
Author: Boone Mayer
For more on the Passionflower, including information about distribution (native and introduced range) as well as more images, please visit Plants of the World Online from Kew Science. For more stories about cultivated plants, visit “Lola’s Garden,” Les Tomates de Mon Grand-Père Paul (The Tomatoes of my Grandfather Paul), and “Pickling Cucumbers in Maine.”
1 thought on “Existential Passionflower”
I love this intricate story of the intricate passionflower vine. I was troubled by the last sentence though, and kept puzzling over it. However, I think I do understand the answer to the question posed: Why the offspring of the passionflower never grow? It seems it is because of the humans who though they have ensured the amazing survival of the passionflower vine, they could not change the underlying conditions of the area, the actual environment into which the little seeds fell. I remembered that the passionflower vine in this story was propogated from a cutting! It did not grow from a natual setting.
Thank you, Boone for this thought provoking story.