Missouri has its own native passionfruit

The passion flower develops into a Maypop fruit with distinctive Hawaiian-punch flavor.

The passion flower develops into a Maypop fruit with distinctive Hawaiian-punch flavor.


We all know the unique flavor of Hawaiian punch, but did you know that tropical passionfruit is the main flavor in this popular drink?

These tropical vines are commercially grown in warmer regions. Lucky for us, though, we have our own native passionfruit right here in Missouri. Missouri passionvine or Maypop — Passiflora incarnata — is a herbaceous perennial vine that dies back to the ground each winter and emerges rather late in the spring.

The vine begins to produce flowers about a month after growth begins. Each beautiful flower lasts a day and the fruit develops two to three months after flowering — in late summer and fall.

Maypops require cross pollination — so you need two unique individual plants or clones to produce fruit. The vine will have a mix of perfect flowers from which fruit is produced and imperfect — male — flowers that do not produce fruit. The vine develops this mix of flowers to balance the crop.

The Maypop fruit is oval and about the size of an egg. It is filled with air and seeds coated with a gelatin-like pulp.

The air space is what makes the Maypops go “pop” when squeezed. Maypops ripen through the season and each plant will have about a dozen fruit.

Let the fruit drop to the ground before collecting it. The skin is thin, so handle with care. Store the fruit for a week or two in a cool place for the flavor to develop and then eat the pulp. There is variation in the fruit quality in the native population, so note that some plants produce tastier fruit than others.

If you harvest wild fruit, make sure you know it has not been sprayed with herbicides or other agents and that it is safe to eat. Better yet, plant two Maypop plants at home to produce your own fruit.

The plants can be vigorous, but if they are surrounded by lawn that is regularly mowed in your landscape, you shouldn’t have a problem. And consider this, if you plant Maypops in your yard, you can honestly ask your neighbors if they would like a nice Hawaiian punch.

Direct comments or questions about this column to horticulture adviser Odneal at MarilynOdneal@missouristate.edu or call her at (417) 547-7500.